Australian animals facing extinction

Dozens of rare species of wallaby, bandicoot and other Australian animals could become extinct within 20 years unless urgent action is taken, scientists have warned.

Mammals, birds, lizards and other vertebrates in the remote north-western Kimberley region are at risk from feral cats and the destruction of their native habitat by wild donkeys, goats and fires, a study showed.

“We’re in the midst of a massive extinction event in Australia and the north has really been the last stronghold for many species of birds and mammals and reptiles,” said Tara Martin, a co-author of the report by the government-funded Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

Nearly 30% of the endangered species identified in the study are unique to the Kimberley region, while others, like the golden bandicoot and golden-backed tree rat, have found the area to be their last refuge after being pushed into extinction elsewhere in the country.

“The Kimberley is really their last chance on Earth,” Ms Martin said.

The report says immediate funding of £59 million is needed to start a range of conservation programmes, and that annual funding to protect the region’s native animals should be doubled.

It says the most effective ways of combating the threat of extinction are to reduce the number of wild donkeys and goats that are competing with native species for scarce food and water, and to do more to combat wildfires that scorch the landscape.

It says attacks by feral cats should also be reduced by educating the community about the threat pets pose to small native animals, building fences, and by ending the poisoning of dingoes in the region.

Martin said some benefits from the proposed conservation efforts would be seen relatively quickly, while others would take several generations.

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