Media Release:  January 26, 2003
New report shows land clearing is decimating Queensland wildlife
BRISBANE: At least 100 million native mammals, birds and reptiles die
each year as a result of broad-scale clearing of remnant vegetation in
Queensland, according to a new WWF Australia report compiled by leading
Australian scientists.
The report states that the average annual clearing rate of 446,000ha of
remnant vegetation in Queensland during 1997-99 also led to the loss of
an estimated 190 million trees per year.
The toll of native wildlife includes 2.1 million mammals, 8.5 million
birds and 89 million reptiles. These figures encompass an estimated
342,000 possums and gliders, 29,000 bandicoots, 19,000 koalas, 233,000
macropods (kangaroos, wallabies and rat kangaroos), 1.25 million small
carnivorous marsupials (dunnarts, antechinuses and others) and over
7,500 echidnas.
One third of the 342,000 possums and gliders killed annually, are tiny
feathertail gliders and the remainder is made up of about equal numbers
of sugar gliders, squirrel gliders, greater gliders and ringtail
The authors of the report, Impacts of Land Clearing on Australian
Wildlife in Queensland, are Dr Hal Cogger (former Deputy Director of the
Australian Museum), Professor Hugh Ford (Head of the School of
Environmental Sciences & Natural Resources Management, University of New
England), Dr Christopher Johnson (Reader in Terrestrial Ecology at the
School of Tropical Biology, James Cook University), James Holman and Don
Butler (Queensland-based vegetation management specialists).
The 48 page report is based on figures obtained for clearing rates in
Queensland between 1997 and 1999.
"This is a landmark scientific report. For the first time, recent land
clearing rates have been used to calculate the direct impact of land
clearing on a range of Australian wildlife throughout Queensland and the
results are truly shocking," said Peter Cosier, WWF Australia
Dr Cogger, who is the author of the definitive Reptiles and Amphibians
of Australia, said the majority of reptiles displaced by land clearing
died immediately or soon after clearing took place.
"They are never replaced and are lost in their tens of millions
forever," he said.
"The highest losses in Queensland are in the brigalow belt where more
than 52 million reptiles are killed each year. If clearing continues at
its current rate in the brigalow, in 20 years time an estimated 1
billion reptiles will have been permanently eliminated from Queensland's
rich diversity of reptile species."
The report also estimates that 5 million birds die each year as a result
of land clearing in the brigalow belt. These include parrots, finches,
wrens, honeyeaters, robins and bellbirds.
Dr Christopher Johnson said that although the report estimated that over
2.1 million mammals were killed by land clearing each year in
Queensland, the true figure was likely to be much higher.
"These figures are a conservative estimate and are based only on species
for which abundance has been measured in the habitats that are subject
to land clearing - for example, there are no estimates of the number of
bats killed by land clearing in Queensland.
Dr Johnson said continued land clearing had the potential to push many
familiar Queensland species in to the higher threat categories, making
them more vulnerable to extinction. "The future is especially grim for
the smaller macropods such as the black-striped wallaby and the rufous
bettong," he said.
Media inquiries: Rosslyn Beeby WWF Australia Media 02 8202 1218 Mobile
0419 520 960