A topic close to AusWildlifeArt’s heart
In Australia, wildlife conservation is an important topic and has been for a very long time. Australian wildlife is varied, unique and has some of the greatest diversity on the planet.
In this post, we will cover why wildlife conservation is important, the threats facing our wildlife and how it can be tackled, what you can do to help, and how AWA supports wildlife conservation.
Why is Australian wildlife conservation important?
Australia is thought to be home to 600,000 – 700,000 different species and is one of the twelve megadiverse countries; these countries collectively contain 75% of the earths biodiversity (variety of life). Australia also has the second-largest number of endemic (found only in Australia) species in the world. This makes it even more important to save Australian wildlife, if they aren’t conserved here on our home soil they could vanish not only in this country but across the world.
What are the threats?
Habitat loss - Urban sprawl
- The human population is ever growing and as we expand we encroach on habitat and displace the wildlife.. The “Australian Dream” is to own your own house leading to land clearing and urban sprawl. Families are growing; Australia’s birth-rate has settled around the lower end at 1.8 births per woman in 2019, but it is predicted a new baby boom will take place due to the recent 2020 pandemic. As the population grows and urban centres become more and more sprawling, the constant need for additional housing means local wildlife is displaced.
- As such, efforts are being made to counterbalance these displacements: for example, koala spotters on construction sites, mandatory green areas in new planned communities, or relocation of wildlife to a safer and more suited area.
Fauna spotter on construction site. Credit: ausecology
- Another impact of more human presence on wildlife is increased traffic. It is estimated that more than four million mammals and six million birds, reptiles and other creatures are killed on Australian roads per year. It slowly contributes to species such as koalas, wedge-tailed eagles and Tasmanian devils becoming extinct in the wild. In addition to the amount of cars on the road, the roads themselves can be an issue because they split up or ‘fragment’ the habitats which can separate an animal from vital things such as access to food, mates, or other resources.
- Measures are put in place such as green corridors to allow the animals to transit above or under roads, increased wildlife crossing signage or decreased speed limits in wildlife hotspots. But we cannot forget we are on their territory, and as such, these animals roam freely and cannot avoid being hit by traffic.
Natural disasters & climate change
- Wildlife displacement due to bushfires, floods and other natural disasters can have dire ecological impacts and decimate local wildlife. Its thought with climate change, the frequency and intensity of these events may increase. The late 2019/early 2020 bushfires is estimated to have killed more than 61,000 koalas and almost 143 million other native mammals , while billions of reptiles and insects were affected. The impact is long-lasting, because even if resident animals managed to flee the affected area, the stress and lack of resources can have had an impact on their general wellbeing.
A Koala on a burnt tree, Kangaroo Island. Credit: Julie Fletcher, WWF Australia
- There is an ongoing effort to establish and maintain natural conservation areas and protecting the wildlife from such disasters, but it is a long way before the impact of natural disasters on Australian Wildlife can be reduced and properly managed. One aspect being explored is how Australia’s indigenous people have for millennia managed the ever-present bushfire risks by carrying out traditional, controlled burning. These burnings allow easier access through thick and prickly vegetation; maintain a pattern of vegetation to encourage new growth and attract game for hunting; encourage the development of useful food plants, for cooking, warmth, signalling and spiritual reasons. This helps clear areas of any overgrown and fire-prone grass and trees, as well as helping the forest regenerate itself and as such be stronger in the face of climate change.
Warlpiri people burning spinifex to promote growth in Tanami Desert, Northern Territory.
Credit: Auscape/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
Introduced species and can threaten local wildlife, either by hunting, spreading disease, or using up resources. Common introduced species include foxes which prey upon native rodents and marsupials, and rabbits which can clear and damage vegetation that native animals depend upon. In addition, as much as we love our furry friends, dogs and cats are also introduced and can be a threat to local wildlife. However, there are solutions; desexing, microchipping, and registering of domesticated animals are standard practice in most places to reduce feral populations. In your own backyard you can minimise their exposure to native wildlife with fences, screened off areas and attaching a bell to your pet.
What is being done to help?
Wildlife conservancy in Australia is also carried out by private or not-for-profit organisations. These entities purchases vast areas of land, ensuring it will never be available for any sort of development and will be dedicated solely to protecting our wildlife. These large scale wildlife sanctuaries sprawl across millions of acres through support from donors and innovative partnerships with Indigenous groups, governments and landholders, they are able to contribute to ensuring our wildlife species survive and thrive.
On a national and local level, there are numerous wildlife rescue organisations active across the country. These organisations help rescue and care for injured or frightened animals and are pillars of the effort to sustain our wildlife. They offer excellent support and can usually be on site very quickly to rescue the animal. They also provide excellent initial first guidance before they arrive such as what to do if you find an injured or stressed animal: you should contact RSPCA, (Royal society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals), your nearest veterinarian or your local wildlife carer organisation as soon as possible so that it may receive appropriate treatment. Wild animals become stressed by handling, so you should seek expert advice before handling an injured animal. Try to minimise the amount of exposure the injured animal has to people and loud noises. Do not attempt to feed or treat it unless you have specialist knowledge or training.
What can I do?
Wildlife Conservation is not just the responsibility of organisations, charities or communities. You can have an impact and contribute to preserving this fragile ecosystem. World Wildlife Fund Australia recommends to get involved in the following ways:
- Donate to your national or local wildlife conservation charity. Make sure it is an official organisation with a long history of conservation, and that details on how the funds will be used are provided.
- Make your voice heard. The government reviews its wildlife conservation strategy every 10 years, but there are other opportunities to communicate to your local council that you care. Major changes to our laws are needed, to ensure we have ambitious plans in place to help the recovery of our already threatened wildlife. The critical habitats and native bushland where the animals live need to be better protected. Be sure to let your local representative know that you care.
- Plant a tree. Today. Trees are crucial to our environment and to the conservation of wildlife. Simply planting native trees in your own garden or getting involved in your local bush regeneration group will already be a great help.
- Change your energy provider. This is an interesting one and something that can happen very quickly. Electricity consumption is responsible for more than one-third of Australia’s emissions - this is one area where you can have a real impact by making a conscious choice to change to a renewable-friendly energy retailer.
- Use less plastic. Australia is very far behind when it comes to recycling – less than 9% (!) of the 3 million tonnes of plastic produced every year are recycled, the rest goes to landfill, which takes a big toll on the environment and increases emissions. Plastic is also a big problem for Australia’s marine wildlife and birdlife, with 130,000 tonnes of plastic ending up in the ocean each year. Corporations will need to change their plastic usage and efforts are being made, but the consumer needs to change their habits and demands when it comes to plastic.
- Reduce your food waste. 30% of the food we buy ends up in landfill and emits methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Energy and water was used to grow, make and transport that food to you – don’t let it go to
Other ways to get involved could include volunteering for a local wildlife group, or volunteering your time towards a citizen science project such as the Aussie Backyard Bird Count or Reef Check Australia. If you are fortunate to have a backyard you could invest in some native plants to make your garden more wildlife friendly. And the next time you’re stuck for ideas for a day out, why not head to a local nature reserve; not only will you get to see the wildlife but if you spend some money while you’re there it’ll help a local organisation.
What are we at AusWildlifeArt doing?
At AWA, it was clear from the get-go that, as people who are passionate about Australian Wildlife Art, we wanted a percentage of our profits to be donated to conservation efforts. The reason the artists are able to paint such beautiful wildlife is because it is still around for us to appreciate and must continue to be. The artists themselves are active across several wildlife organisations and sell their art in order to support these organisations. Our partnership with Friends of the Koala Inc means that through selling our beautiful Australian Wildlife art we can support a local organisation dedicated to preserving one of the most iconic Australian animals, whose habitat is constantly under threat. A percentage of our profit is donated each year to Friends of the Koala Inc to ensure we play a role in conserving our wonderful unique ecosystem. We look forward to a fruitful partnership in 2021!