Small and medium sized mammals have been going extinct across millions of hectares of Northern Australia’s tropical savannas over the past three decades or more.
This rapid loss of our precious wildlife is a strong indictment on the management of the Territory’s landscapes, and the amount of funding commited to research and on-ground conservation work.
These beautiful and unique mammals occur nowhere else on Earth.
Many are listed as vulnerable or endangered under threatened species laws in the Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, and under federal law.
Examples include Northern Quoll, Carpentarian Rock Rat, Golden Bandicoot, Northern Hopping-mouse, and Butler’s Dunnart.
Scientists consider the major threats to these mammals are hot wildfires, damage to habitats by cattle and feral herbivores, being eaten by feral cats, and perhaps disease.
The Environment Centre NT’s Save Our Mammals campaign raises awareness of the extinction crisis, seeks greater commitments of funds from governments and landholders to slow and reverse the decline, and supports effective partnerships for effective on-ground action and research.
The extinction crisis is robbing Australians of their natural and cultural heritage. Many of these mammals are totems for Indigenous people according to their law.
Researchers and Indigenous communities have documented dramatic declines for many species, even in the highest profile and best funded National Parks managed by governments.
Between 1996 and 2006, scientists from the NT Environment Department recorded a major decline in mammals in Kakadu National Park. The number of sites in which no mammals were trapped rose from 10% in 1996 to 50% in 2006.
In Litchfield and Nitmiluk National Parks mammal extinctions have also occurred.
But the good news is that the extinction crisis can be halted and turned around through effective on-ground management that reduces and eliminates threats, is based on sound science and Indigenous Ecological Knowledge, involves cross-tenure partnerships and is monitored through long term ecological research.
This has been demonstrated at Mornington Sanctuary in the Kimberley, which is a privately managed wildlife sanctuary managed by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.
Slowing and reversing the extinction crisis sweeping small and medium sized mammals is one of the greatest challenges facing land managers and researchers. Achieving this outcome will take decades and represents an over-arching goal for land managers and conservationists in implementing integrated natural resource management.
We support the Northern Territory’s Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan that has two Management Actions explicitly relating to saving small and medium mammals:
- investigate reasons for small mammal decline and trial measures to address it, focusing initially on cat predation, but also pursuing other threatening processes as they are identified, as well as any interactions between them (MA-76).
- increase the survival and health of several Arid Land threatened species by controlling foxes and cats in a strategic manner, and monitoring both the effectiveness of this predator control and the recovery of the threatened species populations (MA-77).
The short term Target (Species 1.1) is
- By 2015, we understand the causes of the Top End mammal decline, and have commenced landscape-scale trials to address it.
It will involve increased funding and effective partnerships between protected area managers, governments, researchers, Indigenous Rangers, pastoralists, conservation organisations, weed and feral animal control contractors, and philanthropists.