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Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

6 May 2006

Australian Government works to protect native species from Red List

The release of the 2006 Red List of Threatened Species last week by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) shows continued action is required to protect threatened species around the world, the Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, said today.

Senator Campbell welcomed the publication of the bi-annual report and said the Australian Government had recently renewed its membership to the IUCN.

The report notes that Australia is among four countries with a high number of threatened species compared to other regions.

"The results for Australia is not surprising and must be seen in context," Senator Campbell said.

"Australia, Brazil, China and Mexico are mega-diverse countries, which means these countries cover less than 10 per cent of the global surface but have more than 70 per cent of the world's biodiversity," Senator Campbell said.

"Australia has over one million species of plants, animals and micro-organisms, which is an extremely large number compared with other continents. For example, it is twice as many as the estimated number of species in Europe and North America combined. More than 80 per cent of our plants and animals are unique and found only in Australia."

While Australia is listed as having 639 species threatened (excluding the external territories), this includes species in a number of different categories such as critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable and near-threatened.

Senator Campbell said the Australian Government was working in partnership with state, territory and local governments, non-government organisations, tertiary institutions and community groups to ensure the protection of our native species.

"The Australian Government is investing in a wide range of activities to restore and conserve Australia's environment and natural resources through the $3 billion Natural Heritage Trust (NHT). Since 1997 the Australian Government has invested over $45 million from the NHT in threatened species research and recovery," he said.

Australia's nationally threatened species are listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Recovery plans are then prepared for listed threatened species, which set out the research and management actions necessary to stop the decline, and promote the recovery, of listed threatened species. Recovery plans for over 700 threatened species and ecological communities are in place or in development.

"This work is clearly bearing fruit, as the number of Australian species in some threatened categories fell between 1996 and 2006. And some species have moved to less critical categories," Senator Campbell said.

"For instance, Abbott's Booby, listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List in 2004, is recovering thanks to conservation measures and has now moved down a category to Endangered.

"However, it is clear we need to continue to take actions and decisions which assist in the recovery of our endangered species. The Orange-bellied Parrot, for example, is still listed as critically endangered by the IUCN," he said.

Australia is at the forefront of protecting our marine species and work in this area includes recently announced new world-leading marine protected parks in south-east Australia.

The Australian Government's national reserve system also helps protect our threatened plant and animal life through conservation of our terrestrial environment. The national reserve system has helped to purchase 22 properties across Australia containing 122 different types of vegetation, 31 threatened or near threatened plant communities and a number of rare animals.

Media contact:
Marianne McCabe on 02 6277 7640 or 0400 389 580

Commonwealth of Australia