Published in the Australian Newspaper, August 2015

Non-government organisations tailing wildlife

photo credit: Ricky French


The recent rediscovery of the night parrot, a native Australian bird long thought extinct, is a ­wonderful development but it has inadvertently highlighted failures in Australia’s conservation efforts, particularly those run by ­government.

As reported in The Australian on August 10, the night parrot was rediscovered by naturalist John Young on a farmer’s cattle property in remote Queensland in 2013. The farmer didn’t trust the government to get involved, and instead enlisted the help of a private wildlife organisation, Bush Heritage Australia, which is now scrambling to raise funds to buy the land where the bird was found and protect its habitat. The ­location remains a secret.

The farmer’s belief that the government might “muck up everything” was not without some merit. Whenever there is good news regarding recoveries of endangered species there’s usually a private, philanthropically funded organisation behind it rather than a government organisation.

If you find yourself face to face with a rare bird or mammal in Australia, you can almost be certain you’ll be standing on ­private land, run by a wildlife NGO adhering to a strict business model.

State and federal governments, bogged down in bureaucracy, continue to struggle with the complexities of managing public land for a variety of values, not just conservation, resulting in threatened species being left behind.

Chronic underfunding has Australia ranked in the bottom three countries in the world for money spent on biodiversity, ­relative to need…

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