Flying-Foxes and Bogong Moths

Flying-Foxes and Bogong Moths

Since federal laws were introduced in Australia, in 1999, the list of threatened species and ecosystems has grown by more than a third – from 1483 to 1974.

Whereas governments face pressure from developers to speed through project approvals, Professor Hugh Possingham, of the Australian Research Council, points out that Australia’s wildlife losses not only impact people’s everyday enjoyment but also reduce our economic prosperity.

'The bottom line is, biodiversity makes us happy and it makes us a lot of money," Possingham said. 'People are naturally attracted to diversity'.

Before we wiped out so many of our native animals, you would’ve been able to go for a walk in the bush and seen a dozen species of mammals, but now you’re lucky to see a kangaroo.

The dawn chorus that we love is diminishing, not necessarily because species are going extinct but their overall abundance is declining.

Even if you don’t care about nature, the business case is very strong. If your company was running Australia Inc, you would spend at least a billion dollars a year on preventing biodiversity loss because so many pay us to travel here and look at our wildlife." 

Reference: Sydney Morning Herald, 'Why is Australia a global leader in wildlife extinctions? by Mike Foley, 20 July 2020.

Dr Eric Warrant, Australian Zoology Professor from Sweden's Lund University
, said that while land-clearing and agricultural practices had been one of the driving forces for the Bogon Moth's gradual decline since the 1980s, climate change — particularly the 2017 to 2020 drought — had caused the biggest devastation of the moth's population.

'The bogong moth is the canary in the coal mine, he said. “I couldn’t imagine five years ago that it would be included on this list. There were four billion of these moths entering the Australian Alps ... I would have almost laughed if someone had suggested that they would be on the list. It has brought home to me that even a highly abundant insect like the bogong moth can decline.'

'I hope it spurs politicians and governments to understand the consequences of climate change,' he said.

Senior research scientist, at the Australian Museum, Andrew Mitchell, added that the moths played a vital role in the ecosystem, feeding on many plants and providing a food source for countless animals in the alpine region.

“They are a pretty crucial part of the ecosystem. If you take them out, it has to have a knock-on effect for other species' he said.

Similarly, the Grey-headed Flying-Fox is a keystone species, on which many other wildlife species depend for their pollination and seed dispersal services. Flying-foxes are being severely affected by habitat destruction and removal of the many Eucalypt species on which they feed. 

ANU Ecologist Professor David Lindenmayer
 said there was a greater need for investing in the conservation of Australia’s ecosystems.

“We have dropped the ball on environmental management, biodiversity conservation, research and monitoring,” he said. Our extinction list is going to get longer and longer (unless we do something) and we are going to see more and more species listed as 'threatened' as time goes on.”

Professor Lindenmayer added that animals could often deal with one external pressure on their habitats, but they are now contending with a combination of threats. For example, flying-fox numbers are declining because of excessive land clearing, long droughts and prolonged heat waves as a result of climate change.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Nature Campaigner, Jess Abrahams, said Australia had a poor record when it came to species extinctions. The Conservation Foundation is urging the Federal Government to introduce legally binding standards to national environment law.

A spokesman, for Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley, said the government had supported the analysis of the 2019 to 2020 bushfires on native plants and animals, which included the bogong moth, and that some of the $200 million bushfire recovery effort was going towards regenerating moth habitats in the alpine regions.

Reference: Sydney Morning Herald, 'Canary in the Coal Mine' - Bogong Moth is added to the World's Most Threatened Species', by Laura Chung, 10 December 2021.

Photo Credit: 

FFS would like to know why land clearing is being allowed to continue. Severe penalties should be metered out for illegal land clearing.

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