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Threatened Species Day

Most of us have heard of National Threatened Species Day – but did you know why 7 September was chosen to mark the occasion?

Related to the Thylacine, the Spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) is listed as Vulnerable in NSW and may still be found in the Port Stephens LGA. Photo © Ewa Meyer

On this day in 1936, the last Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) died in Hobart Zoo and has since become the Australian symbol for extinction.

This day has become an opportunity to raise awareness of Australia’s animals and plants that are at risk of extinction. No other country in the world has lost more mammal species than Australia and we are fourth in the world for animal extinctions.

According to the Australian Museum ‘ The Thylacine became extinct on the Australian mainland not less than 2000 years ago. Its decline and extinction in Tasmania was probably hastened by the introduction of dogs, but appears mainly due to direct human persecution as an alleged pest.’

In 1933, famous zoologist David Fleay filmed the last-known thylacine taken just 3 years before the species became extinct and this footage is famous around the world as a reminder of what should never be allowed to happen again. Now, the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia has released the digitised footage colourised by French experts. Watch it here.

The Thylacine was a carnivorous marsupial and its close relatives still survive, making them some of our most unusual mammals. Of the 40 species of carnivorous marsupial, the most well known are the Tasmanian Devil and the 4 quoll species. The Spotted-tailed quoll is found in the Port Stephens LGA.

Left to Right: Squirrel Glider, Photo © NCC NSW; Glossy Black-Cockatoo, Yellow-bellied Glider, Photos © Ewa Meyer

The Department of Environment has listed over 100 threatened species that have been observed in the Port Stephens LGA. These include: Powerful owl, Yellow-bellied glider, Squirrel glider, Spotted-tailed quoll, Koala, Grey-headed flying fox, Little Bentwing-bat, Large Bentwing-bat, Glossy black-cockatoo, Swift parrot, Little lorikeet, Regent honeyeater, White-bellied Sea eagle, Beach Stone-curlew, Mahony’s toadlet, Giant dragonfly, Scrub turpentine, Melaleuca biconvexa, Eucalyptus parramattensis subsp. decadens (Drooping Red Gum).

Did you know: The endangered Giant dragonfly is the third largest dragonfly in Australia and one of the largest dragonflies in the world. The female’s abdomen is approx 8 – 9.5 cm in length with a wingspan up to 12.5 cm – the male is about 2cm smaller. The dragonfly emerges in late spring and makes its home in swampy areas with low vegetation where it preys on smaller flying insects. It only survives for one summer – so keep an eye for them and send us a photo if you can!

This image of a Giant dragonfly was taken by Carmel Northwood at her home. Looks about 1.5 brick depths in length!

Has anyone spotted the endangered Tomaree donkey or Sand doubletail, Diuris arenaria, or its relative the Newcastle doubletail or Rough doubletail, Diuris praecox?

Tomaree Peninsula’s extensive system of coastal and forested sand dunes, wetlands and volcanic hills, harbours species threatened over their range, with some found only on the Peninsula.

Left: Newcastle doubletail (Diuris praecox). Centre/Right: Tomaree donkey or Sand doubletail, (Diuris arenaria). Photos © Sue Olsson

For example, donkey orchids are a rather comical but fascinating orchid, with two upper petals on each flower resembling the ears of a donkey, and long, drooping sepals — the Peninsula has two threatened species of donkey orchid. 

The mauve Tomaree donkey or Sand doubletail, Diuris arenaria, listed Endangered, is found only on the Tomaree Peninsula and nowhere else. Such an isolated population could easily become extinct.

In contrast, the Newcastle doubletail or Rough doubletail, Diuris praecox, has yellow flowers with brown markings. Listed Vulnerable, its range is more extensive, coastal from Smiths Lake near Taree, south to Bateau Bay. With encroaching urban development and recreational impacts, its habitat could readily fragment.

Nationally there are over 500 species listed as threatened on the  Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation 1999 (EPBC Act). However, this listing has not been updated since the 2019-2020 bushfires. Unfortunately the Commonwealth government is trying to further weaken whatever little protection is currently afforded by the EPBC Act.

The Koala Koalition prepared a submission on the draft National Recovery Plan for the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), which is proposed under the EPBC Act. Comments on this draft national recovery plan were submitted in September 2021.

If we don’t address the threats from human activity including climate change, more species will disappear forever.

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Published: 3 Sep 2021