The Australian threatened species list has been updated, with 49 new species added in early May 2016.
Of the 14 newly-added species that could be found in Western Australia, 11 were migratory birds, including two knots, two plovers, two godwits and five kinds of albatross.
All of these species are known to use the wetlands and coastlines of the South-West, including Mandurah’s own Ramsar-listed wetlands, the Peel-Harvey Estuary, Yalgorup National Park lakes, Vasse-Wonnerup Estuary Wetlands.
These wetland systems are part of what is known as the “East Asian Australasian Flyway,” and are essential sites for migratory birds’ passage across continents.
Peter Robertson, Wilderness Society senior campaigner, was concerned with the additions of these birds to the list, which are considered to be indicators of ecosystem health and climate patterns.
“We need to do a lot more to protect the habitat of these migratory species… instead of continuing to degrade and destroy that habitat, which is what is still happening in the metropolitan area, all along our coastline, where we are continuing to lose crucial habitat,” Mr Robertson said.
“Everywhere around WA we are losing habitat for migratory species, our wetlands of course are massively in decline as a result of climate change and other factors… that is a disaster and something that the WA government needs to be doing a lot more prevent.”
Though threatened species commissioner Gregory Andrews could not be contacted for comment, in an article in The Guardian earlier this week he said the additions were more to do with refining data to accurately reflect the species’ status in the wild.
“We can’t make sure that money is invested properly if we don’t have an up-to-date recovery plan for the species,” Mr Andrews said.
In discussion with the ABC, he acknowledged that many recovery plans for threatened species on this list were deficient or out-of-date, and said it was a situation he was trying to reverse.
Mr Robertson, however, was not convinced the government, at either federal or state levels, were doing enough.
“They need to be much more proactive in protecting the remaining wetland habitat of migratory birds, all through WA,” he said.
“It’s not as if the more species they add to the threatened species list, the more funding they provide to look after them, it’s quite the opposite, we’re getting more and more species to the added to the list every year, and less and less funding to do anything about it.”
It’s not all hopeless, though: citizen science project was launched in March, encouraging people to send in feathers found in their local wetlands to create a ‘Feather Map’ of Australia, and contribute to improving data sets.
Families, bird-enthusiasts, school groups and individuals can help scientists to track the movement of waterbirds around Australia from wetland to wetland based on an analysis of the feathers to identify stable isotopes and mineral elements.
For more information on the Feather Map project and how to get involved, see feathermap.ansto.gov.au
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