Governments across Australia are being urged to do more to protect endangered species, amid warnings land clearing and mining are threatening key habitats.
The criticism from conservationists comes as the Federal Government prepares to release a new Threatened Species Strategy.
Conservationists examined the Federal Government’s current strategy to protect 120 of the most endangered animals in Australia and found for nearly 70 per cent of the animals, habitat loss from practices such as mining or logging was the biggest threat.
Samantha Vine from BirdLife Australia told the ABC the scale of the threat was not reflected through the Government’s policies.
“We looked at the recovery plans that have been drafted for our most endangered animals,” she said.
“Of those plans, despite the fact that the vast majority of them listed habitat loss as significant threat, only 10 per cent had placed any prescriptive limits on the future loss of habitats.”
Ms Vine said that meant only 10 per cent of plans had “unambiguous language” to protect critical habitats for the survival of those species.
BirdLife Australia, along with the Australian Conservation Foundation and Environmental Justice Australia, recently released a report detailing their concerns.
One of the animals they are worried for is the swift parrot.
They say while the animal’s recovery plan acknowledges the importance of their tree habitats, it does not specifically enforce limits on land clearing or forestry operations.
Australian Conservation Foundation’s James Trezise said there needed to be a commitment to securing the most important parts of habitats for these species to prevent extinction.
“Each [critically endangered animal] is at a varying level of risk,” he said.
“Of course you’ve got species like the Leadbeater’s possum in the Central Highlands in Victoria, which is in a very dire predicament at the moment with continued logging of its habitat.
“And we’ve got other species such as the regent honeyeater, which occurs across New South Wales and Victoria particularly in rural areas, and it’s estimated that that species has less than 500 left in the wild.”
Stronger, clearer measures needed
Ms Vine said while recovery plans did help to protect threatened animals, measures needed to be stronger.
“We’re really strong advocates of the recovery planning approach to saving threatened species and bringing them back from the brink of extinction,” she said.
“But what we’ve found is that whilst they’re doing a good job of bringing together the knowledge and the science and the action needed to recover threatened species, at the moment recovery plans aren’t doing one of the jobs they were set out to do and that is to protect habitat.”
Ms Vine suggested stricter limits on activity in areas where endangered species lived.
“For a lot of the … critically endangered and endangered animals, there’s not a lot of habitat left,” she said.
“Where we know where that habitat’s really important, we think that needs to be really clearly articulated in plans so those areas cannot be developed.”
The conservationists will take their concerns to the first national summit on threatened species next week.
It is being hosted by Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, with the aim of bringing attention to species in danger and looking at how best to protect plants and animals.
The Minister will also use the forum to launch the first Threatened Species Strategy.
In a statement, threatened species commissioner Gregory Andrews said habitat protection and recovery would be one of the key action areas in the plan.
He said all animals and plants needed suitable habitats and government initiatives such as the Green Army were helping to rehabilitate habitats for threatened species.