Coroner points the finger over recent extinctions

The death of a person is usually followed up with an investigation. People generally want to know the what, when, where and how the death happened. This is particularly important when the death is untimely or suspicious. People are really keen to find out who was responsible or at fault….and of course dish out some punishment. What about when an entire species dies? 

It may interest you to learn that three endemic Australian vertebrates recently went extinct. That’s right, recently! The Christmas Island Pipistrelle, Bramble Cay Melomys and Christmas Island Forest Skink all disappeared forever between 2009 and 2014. Did we know these species were in serious decline and threatened with extinction? You bet we did. So why did they go extinct? Who is to blame? Great questions…

The coronial inquest into this was headed up by John, and with a team of investigators, they sort to uncover the policy, management, research and any other shortcomings that contributed to the loss of these species. Each of the three extinctions has a specific story, but the team were able to identify some common issues, and make recommendations to prevent such avoidable loss in the future.

Essentially, a lack of explicit policy to prevent extinct resulted in threatening processes not being identified, emergency responses not considered strongly, insufficient management and research resources made available, and all the while the species declined without widespread public reporting.

The take home message is that there needs to be accountability! Preventing extinction needs to be an explicit policy and someone needs to take the wrap when it occurs. These species declined and disappeared on our watch…..

For the actual science of this story, you should definitely read the paper and contact the authors if you have any questions.

Woinarski JCZ, Garnett ST, Legge SM & Lindenmayer DB (2017) The contribution of policy, law, management, research, and advocacy failings to the recent extinctions of 3 Australian vertebrate species. Conservation Biology 31: 13-23.

K!E#26 by Luke S. O’Loughlin

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