Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes

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Wildlife Australia, December 1996
ISBN 0 6422 1395 X


This Action Plan, which was prepared by the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Australasian Marsupial and Monotreme Specialist Group (AMMSG) for the Australian Nature Conservation Agency, reviews the conservation status of 209 taxa of Australian monotremes and marsupials: one species and three subspecies of monotremes and 112 species and 93 subspecies of marsupials.

AMMSG first developed a list of all Australian marsupial and monotreme species and subspecies. It then asked relevant experts to nominate taxa whose conservation status should be reviewed and provide information about them. Initially, we provided a draft list based on taxa included in the current Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) List of Threatened Australian Vertebrates. All taxa of conservation concern were then scored against a modified ranking scheme based on that of Millsap et al. (1990) and against the 1994 IUCN Red List Criteria (IUCN 1994).

A specialist workshop was held in December 1995 to review progress and finalise the allocation of taxa to IUCN categories. The Specialist Workshop also developed criteria for allocating taxa to the IUCN category Lower Risk (near threatened).

This Action Plan lists 16 taxa as Extinct (EX), one as Extinct in the Wild (EW), five as Critically Endangered (CR), 17 as Endangered (EN), 31 as Vulnerable (VU), one as Lower Risk (conservation dependent) (LR(cd)), 41 as Lower Risk (near threatened) (LR(nt)), and three as Data Deficient (DD).

The proportion of the total number of taxa in each category is EX - 7.7%, EW - 0.5%, CR - 2.4%, EN - 8.1%, VU - 14.8%, LR(cd) - 0.5%, LR(nt) - 19.6%, DD - 1.4%. The proportion of threatened taxa (CR + EN + VU) of the total number of extant taxa (193) is 27.5%.

Recovery Outlines are presented for all taxa listed here as EW, CR, EN and VU. Briefer Taxon Summaries are presented for taxa listed as LR(cd), LR(nt) and DD.

This Action Plan highlights the extraordinarily high proportion of Australian marsupials that are threatened with extinction. The main causes of extinction and decline in marsupials have been identified and include the introduction to Australia of predators such as the Red Fox and Feral Cat and of herbivores such as the Rabbit, Sheep and Cattle, habitat destruction through land clearing, and changed fire regimes.

However, the Action Plan also shows that there have been significant improvements in the status of some species over the past decade through scientific research, and habitat and feral predator management. For example, in the 1992 Action Plan, the Woylie (or Brush-tailed Bettong) was listed as Endangered; in this Action Plan it is listed as Lower Risk (conservation dependent) because its numbers and extent of occurrence have increased markedly through fox control and translocations. As well, knowledge about the ecology and conservation requirements of many taxa have greatly improved in recent years and there is an increased level of conservation management.

The Action Plan, through the Recovery Outlines and Taxon Summaries, shows what needs to be done to conserve Australia's marsupials and monotremes. In most cases, what needs to be done is clear; what is required is the commitment and resources to carry out the necessary work.


The Australasian Marsupial and Monotreme Specialist Group (AMMSG) thanks the Australian Nature Conservation Agency for funding the preparation of this Action Plan through the Endangered Species Program.

This Action Plan could not have been prepared without the assistance of many members of the AMMSG and other mammal experts in Australia, who generously contributed their knowledge and time. The editors are extremely grateful to all those who helped and especially to those who responded to our many requests for extra information. A full list of people who contributed to preparation of this Action Plan can be found in Appendix A.

AMMSG thanks the World Wide Fund for Nature Australia for assistance with travel costs to the Workshop in Sydney in December 1995, and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service for the use of the Quarantine Station Conference Centre, North Head, Sydney.

The distribution maps were prepared by Conacher Consulting. The mapping information used is Commonwealth Copyright AUSLIG, Australia's National Mapping Agency (1991). All rights reserved.