Threatened Species Symposium


They say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes one to save our threatened species – that was one clear message from the recent North Queensland Threatened Species Symposium where research was shared on successes and failures in conservation efforts over the years.

The Threatened Species Recovery Hub’s Stephen Garnett told a crowd of 150 people that many extinctions had been prevented, and species taken off the ‘threatened’ list thanks to sustained conservation action.

Within an incredibly biodiverse North Queensland, there are currently 180 threatened species and four threatened ecological communities. They range from cassowaries, gliders, the northern bettong and golden-shouldered parrot to sawfish, marine turtles and Mabi and littoral forests.

Prof. Garnett has been working on threatened species recovery for more than 30 years. He said successes and failures revealed seven facets of successful recovery efforts:

  1. Strategic recovery plans with well-considered actions.
  2. Recovery teams that covered a wide range of skills and included government and non-government representatives.
  3. Finding a ‘champion’ or champions who are there for the long haul and making sure there is succession planning.
  4. Legislation and policy – taking it into account and taking advantage of reviews
  5. Resources – looking “in all sorts of places” for both government and non-government options.
  6. Research and monitoring so actions are strategic and well-supported.
    Telling the story to build awareness and sustain interest.

Prof. Garnett was one of 45 speakers and workshop leaders at the two-day event which brought together passionate advocates for threatened species from recovery groups and conservation groups to traditional owners, scientists, government representatives including Threatened Species Commissioner Sally Box, and natural resource management practitioners.

The first event of its kind in this region, the symposium was organised by the NQ NRM Alliance – Terrain, Northern Gulf and Cape York natural resource management organisations – in partnership with the National Environmental Science Program’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub.

Terrain NRM’s Jacqui Diggins said she saw that recovery teams were tackling similar issues independently during a networking event held several years ago.

“That was when the concept of a symposium came, but it didn’t become a reality until several years later when the National Threatened Species Recovery Hub accepted an invitation to visit North Queensland and partner with NQ NRM Alliance.”

She said the recent symposium was “like four pieces of the puzzle coming together” – recovery teams, traditional owners, scientists and government.

“Recovery planning and actions need to be informed by science, but recovery teams’ ability to successfully implement the plan is heavily influenced by government policy and funding. Bringing together scientists, government representatives, traditional owners, recovery team members and other groups working on threatened species recovery – the listening, talking and sharing is a big step in the right direction.”

There were two obvious outcomes from the symposium:

  • Traditional owners need to be more involved in threatened species recovery efforts from the concept stage through to planning and rolling out projects.
  • A new working group has been formed to protect the magnificent broodfrog, listed as ‘vulnerable’ and only found in parts of the Atherton Tablelands and Paluma.

Yidinji Traditional Owner Marceil Lawrence was one of many traditional owners to call for more effective engagement. And her words hit home: “We are a nation of peoples whose voice has been quietened for too long. You need to hear the people’s heartbeat. We need to be able to manage and live on the land, not just exist. Engage. Get behind us.”

It was a message that resonated with attendees – feedback after the symposium overwhelmingly highlighted ‘better indigenous engagement’.

The effectiveness of collaboration was also a popular take-home message – and Bush Heritage ecologist Carly Starr said the newly-formed Magnificent Broodfrog Working Group was evidence of this.

Dr Starr’s presentation at the symposium led to plenty of interest: “Many people came and talked to me afterwards. We’d had very preliminary discussions about a group before, but the symposium was the impetus we needed. We held our first working group meeting and field trip recently. One of our first steps will be comprehensive surveys – most surveys for the magnificent brood frog were more than 10 years ago.

“We’ve had advice from the Kuranda Tree Frog group on forming the group and really great input from Jirrbal traditional owners, researchers, state and federal government staff, other conservation groups and NRM groups on devising priority actions.”

To see a selection of presentations from the North Queensland Threatened Species Symposium, visit Terrain NRM’s YouTube channel.

See also: Science for Saving Species: Threatened Species Recovery Hub Research Findings Factsheet

Partners & Sponsors

This event was organised by Terrain NRM as part of the NQ NRM Alliance, in partnership with Cape York Natural Resource Management and Northern Gulf Resource Management Group, as well the Threatened Species Recovery Hub

It was funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the National Environmental Science Program and sponsored by:

Gold Sponsor: The Nature Conservancy
Silver Sponsors: Wet Tropics Management Authority, Bush Heritage and the South Endeavour Trust


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