30 November 2021
What do the northern tinkerfrog, the Jardine River turtle and the northern greater glider have in common? They are all included on the list of recent updates to conservation status listings under the Nature Conservation and Other Legislation Amendment Regulation (No. 2) 2021.
On 10 November, 15 native animals and 8 plants had their conservation status amended. If those numbers appear alarming, take comfort in the knowledge that not every status update is a sordid tale of conservation mismanagement; some result from the discovery of new species, either living or long extinct, and others are the will o’ the wisps of twentieth-century museum collectors, known from just a handful of specimens.
Three mammals have now been accepted as lost to history in Queensland with their conservation status changed to Extinct:
- the Capricorn rabbit-rat (Conilurus capricornensis) from Least Concern to Extinct
- the blue grey mouse (Pseudomys glaucus) from Least Concern to Extinct
- and the Percy Island flying-fox (Pteropus brunneus) from Extinct in the Wild to Extinct
While the loss of any species is a shame, it is some consolation that these were only ever known from singular or sporadic specimens. The Capricorn rabbit-rat was declared a new species in the Conilurus genus in 2010 after dental remains were unearthed in Pleistocene and Holocene fossil deposits in Capricorn Cave, Queensland. The blue-grey mouse, described in 1910, was known from just two specimens in Queensland’s north-east and one in New South Wales. And the Percy Island flying-fox was described based on the skull and ear of a single bat collected in 1874.
Gliders on the Move
Also on the list of mammals to have escalated in status are several of Wildlife Queensland’s target species, largely because genomic studies have resulted in taxonomic changes. These are:
- the greater glider (southern and central populations) (Petauroides volans (southern and central populations) from Vulnerable to Endangered
- the northern greater glider (Petauroides minor) from Not Listed to Vulnerable
- and the yellow-bellied glider (southeastern species) (Petaurus australis australis) from Not Listed to Vulnerable, cementing it as the deserving faunal face of this year’s Wildlife Queensland Annual Appeal.
With the assistance of volunteers and donors, our Queensland Glider Network and Yellow-Bellied Glider Project teams will continue to work with councils and communities at a grassroots level to prevent further declines in these arboreal marsupials.
When it comes to the conservation status of Australian mammals, size does matter, so the good news story on this list is that the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) was downgraded from Vulnerable to Least Concern. However, while that much-watched cetacean may be having a whale of the time, other classes have every right to be hopping mad about their decline.
One of 2 amphibians relisted, the tapping nursery frog (Cophixalus aenigma), has leapfrogged entire categories to go from Near Threatened to Endangered – a consequence of ‘splitting’ from its former conspecific, Cophixalus concinnus, in 2004. The northern tinkerfrog (Taudactylus rheophilus) has moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered; having not been seen for two decades, it is thought to be a victim of the chytrid fungus.
Sadly, swooping from Vulnerable to Endangered is the only bird on the list, the colourful and clever southern palm cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus macgillivrayi).
Geckoes Clinging On
All 5 reptile species updated have scurried straight to Critically Endangered. At first glance, that might suggest a tendency to overlook the conservation needs of Australia’s less cuddy fauna. In actuality, several were entirely overlooked, having only been discovered in recent years, like the Pinnacles leaf-tailed gecko, Jardine River turtle and Arcadia velvet gecko. The 5 relisted were:
- Jardine River turtle (Emydura subglobosa angkibaanya) from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered
- Arcadia velvet gecko (Oedura lineata) from Least Concern to Critically Endangered
- McIlwraith leaf-tailed gecko (Orraya occultus) from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered
- Pinnacles leaf-tailed gecko (Phyllurus pinnaclensis) from Least Concern to Critically Endangered
- Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius eximius) from Least Concern to Critically Endangered.
Slowly Growing Better
The latest status updates to Queensland’s floral species present a somewhat sunnier picture, with 5 of the 8 species improving:
- Albizia sp. (Windsor Tableland B.Gray 2181) from Vulnerable to Least Concern
- Border Ranges lined fern (Antrophyum austroqueenslandicum) from Extinct in the Wild to Critically Endangered
- Dirran curse (Solanum hamulosum) from Endangered to Vulnerable
- rat’s tail tassel fern (Phlegmariurus filiformis) from Endangered to Delisted
- rib-fruited mallee (Rhodamnia dumicola) from Critically Endangered to Endangered.
Of the other 3, Camptacra perdita escalated quickly, moving from Least Concern to Endangered, and two others moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered – the angle-stemmed myrtle (Gossia gonoclada) and the Bulberin nut (Macadamia jansenii).
You Can Help
Just as every extant individual makes a difference when we’re talking about threatened species, so too every individual can make a significant contribution to stemming the extinction tide. Every little bit helps – even just a dollar or two here or there donated to our Christmas Appeal to help yellow-bellied gliders, to one of our giving days, or left to Wildlife Queensland as a small gift in your Will can make a considerable difference to our long-term goal of preserving Queensland’s flora and fauna.