Dozens of animals and plants join Australia’s threatened species list

What do tingle pygmy trapdoor spiders from Western Australia, silver-headed antechinus from central Queensland and Duramana fingers orchids from NSW have in common?

If you’re waiting for a funny punchline, sorry – the answer is that they’re among the 41 new species of Australian plants and animals that are now officially at risk of extinction.

Two species of antechinus – the silver-headed and black-tailed antechinus – were added to the threatened species list last week. The small, carnivorous marsupials are best known for their reproductive habits – males die after their once-in-a-lifetime mating frenzy.

Two species of antechinus – the silver-headed and black-tailed antechinus – were added to the threatened species list last week. The small, carnivorous marsupials are best known for their reproductive habits – males die after their once-in-a-lifetime mating frenzy. Photo: Gary Cranitch, Qld Museum

The good news though is that this listing could, potentially, be the first step towards reversing the country’s world-leading extinction rate.

Those 41 species were among 50 changes to the country’s official threatened species list after its annual update on Friday.

As well as the additions, both the Wollemi pine – noted as the botanical find of the century – and the western ringtail possum has deteriorated to become “critically endangered”.

The Wollemi pine saw its status on the threatened species list downgraded from "endangered" to "critically endangered" due to the introduction of phytophthora disease into its secluded habitat.

The Wollemi pine saw its status on the threatened species list downgraded from “endangered” to “critically endangered” due to the introduction of Phytophthora disease into its secluded habitat. Photo: Royal Botanic Garden

While the Phytophthora disease is driving the decline of the pine, reduced rainfall – almost certainly driven by climate change – is one of the major threats to the possum.

Australian Conservation Foundation’s Basha Stasak said the new listings were both recognition of the hard work of scientists and an indictment of government policy.

On one hand, Ms Stasak said the listings were an important first step in putting plans into place to protect those species. On the other, she said it was evidence of a political mindset that favoured development over conservation.

“It’s just a further indication of the crisis we’re facing in Australia,” the ACF nature campaign manager said.

“There are now almost 2000 species on the [threatened] list and there’s really a lack of money to fund the recovery efforts that are needed to get these species off the list.

“And it’s a sign that our national environmental laws are really failing to protect the critical habitat they need to recover.”

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