Environment Australia, April 1995
Rats and mice have always had bad press. Their reputation was not aided by transmitting bubonic plague and contributing to the Black Death in Europe. In Australia, plagues of introduced mice have regularly gained notoriety for wreaking havoc in grain crops, and introduced rats were even responsible for a minor plague in Sydney in 1900.
Partly as a result of this history, many Australians have no knowledge of, let alone interest in, our unique native rodent fauna. Certainly most see no distinction between native and introduced rats and mice.
Although characters based on rodents, such as Mickey Mouse, have achieved popularity in the mass media, there seems to have been little change in public opinion of rodents this century.
This poor public image has led to direct impacts on native rodents, such as poisoning, usually aimed at introduced species. Along with habitat changes, these have had a major impact on Australia's unique rodent fauna.
Like other native fauna groups, rodents have adapted to Australian conditions in a diverse range of habitats. The Conilurini have the highest species-diversity, particularly in the arid centre and wet-dry tropics, and are almost entirely unique to Australia.
Rodents account for half of Australia's mammal extinctions since European settlement, but marsupials have received the greatest attention and public support for conservation. Whether this is for their uniqueness or better public image is hard to say.
Of the sixty-two native rodent species recorded since European settlement, only half are considered by this action plan to be secure. For the remainder, gaining public sympathy must be a major challenge for their conservation.
The Action Plan for Australian Rodents is the fourth in the series of action plans commissioned by the Australian Nature Conservation Agency. Preceding this were the action plans for birds, freshwater fishes and reptiles, as well as that for marsupials and monotremes produced by WWF/IUCN. Currently in preparation are action plans for frogs, bats, cetaceans, seals and dugong, a revised action plan for marsupials and monotremes, and conservation overviews for non-marine lichens, bryophytes, algae and fungi, and non-marine invertebrates.
This action plan provides a timely and up to date guide to the management and research actions required for the conservation of Australia's remaining rodent fauna.
I hope that this publication also provides an incentive to increase public awareness of Australian rodents, and starts to generate an appreciation of the uniqueness and value of this diverse group.
Chief Executive Officer
Biodiversity Group, Environment Australia
I would like to thank those people who read and offered constructive criticism of this action plan who are not referred to in Appendix 1. They include Barbara Wilson, Andrew Bennett, Richard Braithwaite, Noleen Kunst, John Seebeck, David Rounsevell, Don Fletcher and Peter Myronuik. Their comments were invaluable.
I would also like to thank Stephanie Maxwell for her patience in overcoming computer compatibility when preparing the final manuscript and Bruce Male for his continual encouragement.
27 february 1995