Following is a note from a reader on the subject of species incorrectly listed as vulnerable to exinction in Australia. The reader, who I will call Matthew for convenience*, makes the point that both state and federal lists of threatened speces are notoriously unreliable and tend to over estimate the number of rare, vulnerable and threatened species because they include populations at the edge of their natural range.
In your blog post titled ‘Species Vulnerable to Extinction: Part 1, The Daintree’ you asked for details of some fauna or flora species which are incorrectly listed as threatened.
The threatened species lists of the [Australian] states are littered to varying degrees with species which are incorrectly listed. New South Wales (NSW) in particular lists many species which are on the edge or beyond of their natural distributions in this Australian state.
Here are a few:
Black-necked Stork (E), Cotton Pygmy-goose (E), Magpie Goose (V), Red-tailed Tropic bird (V), Masked Booby (V), Collared Kingfisher (V).
These species aren’t under any threat in NSW. They just don’t occur in the state or are right on the edge of their distribution near the NSW border.
Most only ever show up in NSW as strays or birds blown in by large storms and do not require any protection in that state. Similarly Queensland lists the Common wombat as Rare. It only occurs in a tiny part of the state near Stanthorpe.
The Australian federal government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBS) listings are mixed up because the feds take their listings from the states and filter out most of the kind of listings mentioned above. Just to make things interesting they list some species differently from the states, for example the Queensland lungfish. It only occurs in Queensland and is not under threat or listed in that state, but for some reason is listed federally.
In general they are interested in the species as a whole but get confused with listings for a lot of subspecies and particular populations. So you get the glossy-back cockatoo not listed under the EPBC Act except on Kangaroo Island and many similar listings.
Your Tasmanian wedgetail eagle is another but the Tasmanian Azure kingfisher has managed to avoid EPBC listing so far and is only listed on the Tasmanian state list.
You’ve labeled Thinksy’s list as critically endangered bird species but this is misleading. Many of the birds are not critically endangered species at all. They are subspecies or regional populations. I note that Birds Australia have labeled it as critically endangered birds.
Other species are listed based on poor knowledge of the species originally followed by the states and Canberra being slow to update their lists in line with the real situation. One I have worked with is a Brachychiton vitifolius, a small shrub from Cape York Peninsula. It is reasonably common, spread over 500 km of the peninsula in most areas where Darwin stringybark woodland (one of the most common ecosystems in the region) occurs. It loses its leaves in the dry season so it looks like a bunch of twigs when most people visit the area and is difficult to find unless you know what to look for. It commonly grows on eroding creekbanks and thrives on road edges, fencelines and other disturbed areas. It was formerly listed by Queensland as ‘Vulnerable’ but nowdays has been dropped to ‘Rare’.
It should and probably will be dropped altogether but the process is slow. Meantime it is still listed under the EPBC act as ‘Vulnerable’.
Thanks for this information, Matthew*. But if the Azure Kingfisher is only on the state list, why is it listed by Environment Australia as critically endangered?
Is the Tasmanian population really a distinct subspecies?
Interestingly the species has a distribution that extends from Papua and New Guinea right down the east coast of Australia but the map next to the listing at Birds Australia only shows it occuring in Tasmania. On careful reading it is evident that this listing only refers to the Tasmanian subspecies, but hey it could be construed as misleading.
How does the average person work out which species are really vulnerable to extinction – really needing of special care and attention?
Which species on Thinksy’s list are really critically endangered?
* Matthew is the pen name that I have given this reader who wishes to remain anonymous.