7th September 2014 - what's on
To effectively help Tasmania's threatened species, we need Tasmanians to be aware of how their activities could heighten their local species' risks of extinction, to understand why this matters, and to support efforts to secure these species.
To promote the issue, Australia marks 7th September - the day the last known Tasmanian tiger died, in 1936 - as national Threatened Species Day.
In recent years, however, many conservationists have noticed a reduction in interest - in biodiversity conservation in general and threatened species in particular. There are a variety of potential reasons for this - a greater focus on the more human-related issue of climate change; a realisation, in light of continuing research and experience, that saving species is a much bigger job than originally anticipated; as funding is reallocated, less funds are available for promotion of the issue. However, none of these reasons affect the importance of the issue, nor the positive messages that can be communicated. While some may be particularly difficult to address, the risk of many species extinctions in Tasmania could be greatly reduced with relatively limited funds together with improved support and awareness.
We are therefore inviting interested Tasmanians and Tasmanian organisations - be they scientists, artists, curators, sports people, business people, educators, local government agencies or simply lovers of our plants and animals - to join together over the coming years to show the rest of the country how to mark Threatened Species Day properly.
Theme for this year: SIZE DOESN'T MATTER
We tend only to remember the big pretty species.
Ask people to care for Tasmania's threatened species, and they'll typically wonder what they can do for wedge-tailed eagles, spotted-tailed quolls, devils and orange-bellied parrots, beyond perhaps donating some money. These species certainly need our effort and attention. However, the needs of 41 threatened aquatic snails
, each a few millimetres in diameter, probably won't cross their minds. Yet when you get up close and personal, even some of the tiny ones can be not only fascinating but beautiful too.
There are a great many little threatened species.
We can start to help by learning more about we're dealing with. Many people are surprised to learn that - depending which lists you're including - around 700 species are listed as threatened in Tasmania. (Have a look at those living in your area through the Threatened Species Link Area Search
). The problem is that many of them are small and not immediately eye-catching.
A species that's easy to miss is at greater risk. Once we realise that many of our threatened species often go unnoticed, it's easier to appreciate how we can unknowingly wipe them out. It's a common assumption that such species live only in national parks and old growth forests. However, you can find at least one threatened species almost anywhere you look in Tasmania - if you look hard enough. Plants in particular may be very difficult to identify outside a brief flowering period - and different plants flower at different times of the year. In particular, large areas of private land haven't been surveyed.
It's possible that quite substantial populations of some of our threatened species are at special risk, just because no one knows they're there. So everyone can help by learning where their threatened local species are, and by regularly supporting expert surveys on their land.
It's easy to forget the significance of a little species. Even for those who are aware that Tasmania is home to so many threatened plants and animals, it might take a little extra work to appreciate the value of our less obvious ones. While intellectually we can all understand that even tiny ferns or insects may make a difference to maintaining the stability of our environment, we have a much more instinctive sympathy for the larger, furry or feathered species. This may be an opportunity for the artists among us to bring out the hidden beauty and variety of, for example, a few of the aquatic threatened snails, or some of our less showy plants.
Little species can often be easier to save. It can be relatively easy to cater for the needs of a population of a small threatened species - be it by setting up a reserve, by limiting potentially harmful activities or by promoting beneficial ones. Larger species may cover a much larger area and come into frequent conflict with people, and are often more challenging to protect. While of course it's important to address these challenges too, it's helpful to remember that protecting some of our lesser known threatened species is actually a realistic prospect.
What we'd like to achieve in 2014
- Awareness of the widespread, diverse, significant but easily missable nature of threatened species
- Interest in checking for threatened species in an area when planning an activity where native plants and animals live - anything from house-building to organising an athletics event.
- Interest in encouraging, supporting and participating in surveys to find and protect new threatened species populations.
- Interest in helping save our less iconic threatened species through the numerous organisations working to do that
What kind of things could be done for this and future Threatened Species Days?
Suggestions so far include:
- A parade of all 700 species, perhaps culminating at a central grassy area to place a flag representing each one, or at an art exhibition representing them.
- Museums, wildlife parks and botanic gardens highlight exhibits covering the smaller, lesser known threatened species.
- Geocaching - it's difficult to arrange large groups of people to see small, inconspicuous species (e.g. risk of damage; plants may not be flowering), but geocaches could be put in areas of suitable habitat so locals could become more aware of the types of places the species lives in.
- Explore through an artistic medium the issues and consequences of being ignored on the basis of perceived size, attractiveness or significance; or express the hidden beauty and significance of some of our smaller species (Threatened Species Unit may be able to supply photographs or in some cases help an artist see a particular species) - join with other artists and exhibit; promote a local little-known threated species in this way.
- Organise a useful activity for your local threatened species, such as rehabilitating habitat or carrying out a survey.
- Composition of a song - for example a song about being small, for the younger of our community to sing.
How the Threatened Species Unit can help
We're a tiny team with very limited time but a lot of enthusiasm! We are able to:
- Provide or link to expertise in threatened species and related issues, to help ensure that the actions and messages behind your ideas are based on up-to-date science and speak effectively to the current conservation problems
- Coordinate similar interested parties
- Help generate and share ideas about this year's theme
- Help communicate and promote events
Keep checking this page and we'll provide answers to your most frequently asked questions - send us questions and ideas through the contact details below.
You can find out plenty more about threatened species in general on www.threatenedspecieslink.com which also has an FAQ page
We'll provide this information and plenty more, both on threatened species and Threatened Species Day activities around the state, on the Threatened Species Link Facebook page.
What we need from you
- Enthusiasm, initiative and a little commitment to explore this year's theme in your own way
- Willingness to coordinate with others to share a common message
- Help to spread the word to others you might like to work with
- Ideas and expressions of interest in what you might like to do for future years
- An email to let us know what you'd like to do, where you'd like to do it and how we or anyone else might be able to help
Currently committed parties
Threatened Species Unit
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens
Hobart City Council
Threatened Species Unit