South Australia: Places and species
Life on land
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Life on land
We should remind ourselves that in South Australia since colonial settlement, at the very minimum, 73 species of plants and animals are now extinct. In addition to this many recently extinct forms of life will never have been described and therefore will never be known, except that is, by the Indigenous people who lived here over countless generations. The list of endangered, threatened and rare species from South Australia contains more than 1,000 animals and plants. Attitudes towards Australian wildlife in South Australia openly on display in the sign above.
This analysis lists the extinct, endangered, vulnerable and rare species in South Australia. For today I have just added mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian species, The list I have compiled has more than a 1,000 species on it and I will add other classes of life as time allows.
I record these here so we begin to understand the extent of the problems we face. Those species listed as extinct in South Australia may either now be entirely extinct, that is lost and gone forever, or still survive in other states and territories, small islands and so on, many of these will be on the brink of extinction.
Australian mammal species are also subject to hunting / destruction in South Australia by various permits (and many more are killed ‘illegally’). For example species caught up in a commercial trade of wildlife include:
For example the commercial quota for the Red Kangaroos in South Australia in 2015 was 327,300 of which 68,908 (not including pouch young) were ‘harvested’. For the Western Grey Kangaroo the quota was 155,400 of which 27,787 were ‘harvested’ and for the Euro the quota was 57,600 of which 9,990 were ‘harvested’. Claims by the media, including the ABC in South Australia, that Kangaroo numbers were exploding are at odds with the number of animals ‘harvested’ in relation to the size of quotas.
In addition to the commercial trade, permits in that year were issued to destroy 1,990 Eastern Grey Kangaroos (listed as rare in South Australia), 7,825 Tammar Wallabies, 2,571 Red Kangaroos, 33,121 Western Grey Kangaroos and 1,875 Euros.
“Australia’s federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is ineffective. It does not enable the commonwealth to protect and conserve environmental matters that are important for the nation,” the chair of the review, Graeme Samuel, said.
In a horrific piece of prey switching the South Australian Government, and as the fires were burning on Kangaroo Island and large donations to rescue Australian wildlife were pouring into South Australia from around the world, have added three more species to the commercial trade in wildlife in Kangaroos. These are:
By any international standards these additions are disgraceful, until recently the Eastern Grey Kangaroo was listed as rare in South Australia (now the claims are that its population has exploded, while other species have declined in numbers) and even more stunningly, and until recently, the South Australian mainland Tammar Wallaby, was listed as extinct.
The South Australia National Parks and Wildlife Department cited the following species as rare:
Extinctions of bird species in Australia have been particularly severe on offshore islands around the continent. Extinction hot spots not associated with South Australia include Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island. The diminutive Kangaroo Island Emu vanished in the latter part of the 1820s.
Unprotected species during hunting season: In 2018 the duck season in South Australia began on 17 February and ended on 24 June. Some species removed because of population decline. The Quail season ran from 17 February to 26 August.
Australia has something slightly less than 10 per cent the world's 9,800 known reptile species. So the continent is of extreme importance. From the data it appears that around 7 per cent of Australia’s reptile species may be at serious risk of extinction. Three Christmas Island species (not SA), one now extinct (Christmas Island Forest Skink Emoia nativitatis), have recently (late 2017) been declared extinct in the wild and demonstrate the vulnerability of reptiles to a growing range of threats. These include land clearing, changing fire regimes, climate change disruption of breeding and habitat conditions, introduced species are devastating, the toxic Cane Toad in the wetter tropical, sub-tropical regions and cats across much of the continent. Cane toad distribution and numbers have increased significantly over the last 15 years adding to the general threat. Government data is unreliable as not enough work is being done to investigate current circumstances. A global reptile assessment was being conducted (IUCN) at the time of writing.
“The IUCN assessment found (April 2022) that of the 10,000 reptile species assessed, that 21 per cent of all reptile species are at risk of extinction. Habitat loss caused by expanding agriculture, deforestation and urban development are the greatest threats to reptiles worldwide, with South and Southeast Asia, a centre of reptile diversity where these threats are prevalent. Other substantial threats include impacts of invasive alien species, especially predators, and unsustainable hunting and trapping of species for human use”.
I have treated South Australia’s list of amphibians differently because there are relatively few species. Of the 36 species / sub species listed below 8, are listed by the South Australian Government as vulnerable or rare.
Given the harshness and remoteness of large areas of the state it remains the case that much is unknown and more species may be present and others facing extinction. The review of the current conservation status of Australian amphibians by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) sponsored Global Amphibian Assessment (GAA) found that fifty of 216 amphibian species (23%) reviewed in Australia were identified as threatened or extinct in accord with IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria.
The Cane Toad is listed here as a hitchhiker into South Australia, an ever increasing danger given the growing populations to the north, east and west.
There is, what I can only describe as a joyous piece of research, scholarship, authorship and publishing, and that is Tadpoles and Frogs of Australia by Marion Anstis, published by New Holland. That amphibians exist at all in some of the hottest and driest places on Earth is a tribute to nature and evolution of the species.
They are all precious, each and every one.
The situation for plants in South Australia, as land is cleared or grazed by cattle and sheep and other introduced animals, as illustrated in these lists, begins to describe the patterns of extinction and endangerment that are so evident across all classes of Australian life. As the plants vanish and the interdependency of Australian species fragment, the pace of decline can only increase.
The extensive use of herbicides in Australia also has a significant impact on plant diversity, places that were biodiverse turned to monocultures that largely exclude Australian plant life. The failure, over a very long period, of successive governments across the Australian continent to comprehend and acknowledge the significant environmental and human health issues associated with the use of agricultural chemicals persists.
Some species are endemic to a particular set of places, with restricted range comes a greater likelihood of extinction. Some species, as we have described an Australian state here, may be at the edge of their range and exist in greater numbers in a different state. Arid zone species however can have a very large arid zone range, take small mammals for example, a number of species once common across the vast outback, now perhaps restricted to a particular place, some species have managed to cling on in Western Australia for example, albeit in tiny numbers, but may be extinct in other states and territories. Many are of course gone completely and forever.
Given Australia’s disgraceful land clearing rates and the climate change it promotes, one thing is certain, and that is, the vast diversity of Australia’s plant life will become increasingly endangered. This is something humanity will come to regret.