[ASC-media] Media Release: Protect Habitat to Save Wildlife from Extermination

Australasian Science science at control.com.au
Thu Oct 29 23:28:10 CET 2009

For immediate release

Protect Habitat to Save Wildlife from Extermination

Australia urgently needs more research on protecting the habitat of  
our unique wildlife “if we are not to be mute witnesses to their rapid  
extermination in the next 20–50 years,” according to an expert on how  
Australian animals adapt physiologically to their particular  

Emeritus Professor Don Bradshaw, who held the Chair in Zoology at the  
University of Western Australia for 28 years, issued his call in the  
November/December edition of Australasian Science, published today.  
Among the animals Prof Bradshaw has studied is the spectacled hare  
wallaby, one of the many rare and threatened species found on Barrow  
Island, the site of the recently announced Gorgon gas project.

Prof Bradshaw says that while “the need to protect and preserve  
Australia’s unique and diverse flora was recognised early by  
legislation passed in the various states… the case was not so simple  
with fauna, many species of which were regarded as vermin and others  
hunted for their skins.”

Prof Bradshaw point out: “Animals also move and, while it is easy to  
protect the place where a plant grows, defining an animal’s habitat is  
more difficult and depends on detailed research”.

Prof Bradshaw says that the Wildlife Conservation Act in Western  
Australia “does not bind the Crown” to protect the habitat of  
threatened fauna. While a move was made in 1991 to address this, there  
is still no legislation in place 18 years later. This means that  
“while it is an offence to take or kill a rare animal it is not an  
automatic offence under Western Australian law to destroy its unique  

Nationally, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation  
Act 1999 lists a number of threatened and endangered species and  
offers protection to these and their habitat. But, this only applies  
to those species listed in the Act, and only 91 of the 250-odd species  
of mammals in Australia are listed.

Prof Bradshaw identifies many threatening processes that lead to  
habitat destruction and the eventual loss of biodiversity, including  
“clearing for development, introducing exotic competitors like sheep,  
rabbits and weeds, salinity, plant pathogens like Phytophthora  
cinnamomi and fire. The effects of fire on habitat are perhaps the  
least well-understood, and debate rages over the benefits and perils  
of prescribed burning, especially following the devastation of this  
year’s Victorian bushfires.”

Summaries and quotations of selected passages for reporting or review  
are permissible provided AUSTRALASIAN SCIENCE MAGAZINE is credited as  
the source of this story.

Prof Don Bradshaw can be reached on (08) 9758 1449 until 8 November,  
and then (08) 9381 5010.
For a full copy or for permission to reproduce this article or a photo  
of Prof Bradshaw with a wallaby call the Editor, Guy Nolch, on (03)  
9500 0015 or Senior Correspondent, Peter Pockley, on (02) 9660 6363.

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