Australia’s changeable environments challenge our wildlife and the people that call Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) sanctuaries and partnership areas home. This year the AWC team has already experienced the impacts of significant floods and, with an active El Niño weather pattern declared, we are now heading into a potentially significant wildfire season. I greatly admire and respect the tenacity of our team in dealing with these challenges on the ground and appreciate the empathy from those around them, including your dedicated support.
While I am often called upon to share the ‘newsworthy’ stories, much of the conservation work AWC delivers is in the day-to-day efforts of staff and volunteers across the country. From aerial burning to tracking feral cats to monitoring native species, these individually small steps cumulatively generate big outcomes. In the last financial year, 85% of AWC’s total expenditure was invested directly in conservation programs. Over this time, translocations of 13 native mammal species were achieved and more than 280,000 trap nights were undertaken. This investment of time and effort in monitoring is vital as it enables us to act when it’s needed.
As a continent, Australia has been isolated from the rest of the world for tens of millions of years. This has made our biota vulnerable to introduced species such as feral cats, foxes and cane toads. These pervasive threats can interact with other environmental changes, including the altered fire regimes that followed European colonisation. For example, feral cats preferentially hunt along large-scale burn scars and kill 1.5 billion native vertebrates each year. Now, the impacts of climate change are being felt. It has never been enough to delineate an area as ‘protected’: we must manage threats and monitor outcomes. AWC’s evidence-based approach is delivering robust monitoring and conservation land management at a scale that is unmatched nationally. It’s about restoring what we can and building more resilient ecosystems that are able to persist in a changing climate.
This year has seen some much-needed government action including the initiation of an action plan to target feral cats and a focus on setting ‘nature positive’ objectives (where biodiversity is not just protected but improving). However, the already woefully inadequate allocation to the federal environment budget and funding to programs in the field continues to decline.
Representing 7–10% of the world’s biodiversity, Australia’s unique animals, plants and fungi must be protected. As the report into the nine planetary boundaries – representing processes vital to Earth systems – demonstrates, the need for the protection of our biodiversity is no longer an abstract issue, we must do it. The boundary for biodiversity loss and extinction in Australia has already been transgressed. A functioning ecosystem is vital for our health, our economy and our climate. AWC’s work is recognised across Australia and around the world; we stand at the precipice of making significant changes to how Australia manages its land and biodiversity. Investment and management deliver results and AWC is uniquely placed to effect conservation outcomes at a continental scale.
While the world and society changes at a rapid pace, I am focused on strategic planning to ensure AWC’s values are appropriate, and that our focus areas and priorities are relevant. Together, we are building an AWC that is sustainable and effective for the immediate future and beyond.
Thank you for your support and best wishes for the holiday season.
Read or download this full issue of Wildlife Matters here.