“If we don’t do anything about predation pressure, we will lose more species,” she said.
Dr Stobo-Wilson said there had been many successful programs which had reduced fox and cat populations – with native species bouncing back, but more needed to be done. For example, from July 1 this year, new cats in certain Canberra suburbs will have to be confined to their owner’s property or kept on a leash. Other initiatives include the introduction of baiting schemes or wildlife-free zones, of which NSW has seven.
The NSW government is releasing 14 red-tailed phascogales into one of the state’s south west wildlife free zones this week. The small arboreal marsupial is listed as extinct in the state, occupying less than 1% of its former range, with foxes and cats being the primary cause of its decline.
“The Phascogale is the eighth mammal listed as extinct in New South Wales that has been returned to NSW national parks in the past three years,” said New South Wales’ environment minister. -South Wales, James Griffin. “Within a few years, we hope to remove at least 10 mammals from the NSW Extinct Species List – the first time this will happen anywhere in the world.”
“Statewide, there will soon be 65,000 acres of wild predator-free areas on the national park estate, including this site at Mallee Cliffs. They are established as an essential part of the NSW Government’s conservation strategy, aimed at preventing extinction.
Dr Stobo-Wilson said events such as bushfires or floods can actually increase the number of cats and foxes, providing them with more food sources.
In New South Wales, the latest State of the Environment report found that feral cats had impacted 117 species and foxes had impacted 111 species. Animals were also the main reason animals went extinct in the state.
ANU conservationist professor David Lindenmayer said it’s not just foxes and cats that impact the survival rate of native species: introduced pests such as rabbits, horses , camels and deer added further pressure.
“Over the past 10 years, Australia has lost three species of mammals. It’s not like the rate of loss is slowing down, in many cases that decline is increasing,” he said. “When we combine good management with good science, you can get good results, but that means you have to invest right and you have to have good science associated with it.”
Professor Lindenmayer said introduced species were only part of the additional pressures native animals faced, alongside land clearing, natural disasters and the ongoing construction of fossil fuel projects.
Last week, a national audit revealed the Federal Department for the Environment is unsure whether its plans to stem Australia’s wave of flora and fauna extinctions are working. The ministry oversees the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which requires the government to identify endangered species and develop plans to help them recover.
“There is little evidence that the desired results are being achieved, due to the lack of monitoring, reporting and support from the ministry for the implementation of conservation advice, recovery plans and threat reduction plans” , says the report. “Failures identified in previous audits had not been addressed and there is ‘no timeline or plan for future assessments’.
“Most of the recommendations from past assessments and reviews have yet to be implemented,” the report said.
Invasive Species Council conservation director James Trezise said there is no silver bullet to solving the invasive species problem. He said technology would play a key role in population control, as would strict biosecurity measures.
He said invasive species posed a huge economic problem for the government, but one he could not ignore.
“We don’t have a full understanding of the total spread of invasive species or the total threat they pose,” Trezise said. “In many cases, we find out when it’s too late.”