Threatened Species Symposium a Success


30 MARCH 2023

Two days, 270+ passionate, knowledgeable people and a lot of work to do… With growing concerns about the number of threatened species in our region – from cassowaries, golden-shouldered parrots and sawfish to Mabi rainforest and ant plants – it’s no surprise that the recent North Queensland Threatened Species Symposium was a sell-out.

Held in Cairns, the event brought together conservationists, scientists, traditional owners, natural resource management organisations and government representatives to share everything from learnings, challenges, project news and the latest research to cultural knowledge, monitoring methods and recovery team achievements.

The focus was also on funding needs, maximising funding opportunities and, most importantly, collaborative actions that’ll make an impact.

Long-term investment needed

Terrain NRM CEO Stewart Christie called for long-term investment in a nature repair economy: “The Australian Government has committed to a nine-year funding program for the Great Barrier Reef. State governments commit to 10-25 year road programs. We’d welcome similar thinking about investment in the environment and the many natural resources that sustain our regional economy – from tourism to construction – as well as our lifestyle and wellbeing. What we need is combined 20-25 year programs – long-term commitment and investment that is bi-partisan.”

The symposium was full of people who devote their lives to saving threatened species and ecological communities, in paid or volunteer capacities or in both. Because many people and groups focus on a specific threatened species, they often work in silos. So the level of networking at the event was high, and was great to see.

“People were announcing new opportunities or talking about challenges during presentations and later coming to us saying they’d had the chance to talk to Queensland and Australian Government representatives or had made useful recovery team contacts. And government representatives were able to gather a lot of feedback about things like bioregional planning and nature repair markets.”

Thank you supporters and sponsors

The North Queensland Threatened Species Symposium was hosted by the NQ NRM Alliance (Terrain NRM, Cape York NRM and Gulf Savannah NRM) in partnership with the Australian and Queensland governments. It was supported through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and the Queensland Government, as well as sponsors: the Wet Tropics Management Authority, The Nature Conservancy, Bush Heritage, the World Wildlife Fund, Centre for Tropical and Environmental Sustainability Science, Queensland Water and Land Conservation, Biosphere Environmental Consultants, the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, Up North and Skyrail Foundation.

Some of the good news included:

  • New ‘Priority Place’ listing: The ‘Eastern Forests of Far North Queensland’ was recently listed by the Australian Government as one of 20 priority places for threatened species recovery under the Threatened Species Action Plan. At the Symposium, recovery teams and land use planners talked about sustainable solutions for both conservation and development.
  • Mabi Forest: A new ‘Reforest’ initiative will revegetate an area near Wongabel State Forest that was logged. Reforest has launched an app, with the support of the tourism industry, so businesses and their customers can invest in local regenerative efforts that’ll  contribute to drawing down carbon.
  • Cassowaries – Wet Tropics & Cape York: A Cassowary Recovery Plan will go out for public comment soon. The Wet Tropics cassowary population appears to be stabilising. The recovery team is cautiously optimistic: “We believe the numbers are now stable but we need to ensure they remain stable”. On the Cape, there is new knowledge about cassowary populations. After 40 years with no recorded sightings, cassowaries were detected in 2018 and sightings continue. Actions include the development of a cassowary management plan, traditional fire management, pig and cattle management in cassowary country and indigenous ranger training.
  • Indigenous ranger program: This program is continuing to expand, building capacity in First Nation organisations.

  • New Queensland Threatened Plant Network: The Queensland Government is establishing this network to improve coordination of recovery efforts across the landscape rather than just in protected areas. It’ll be open to any organisation – from community and non-government to local government and other government agencies. Seed funding for a number of projects is part of this initiative.
  • Feral Pigs: There will be a National Feral Pig Conference in Cairns on 20-21 June, following on from a recent Virtual Stakeholder Forum. A working group has just released a prospectus aimed at securing longer-term funding. In the Wet Tropics, drone bait drops are now being used in hard-to-access areas, along with satellite camera activated trap gates for better management, and GPS trackers and genetic research to learn more about pig movements. Also, feral pigs are being turned into fertiliser (or Feraliser) north of Cairns, with the first commercial run planned for later this year.
  • Threatened Species Priority Framework: It’s being co-developed by the Queensland Government and CSIRO. This is a decision support tool, underpinned by a database, that’ll be publicly available.
  • National Environmental Science Program funding: NESP will be funding four-year projects as part of its Resilient Landscape Hub, to start in 2024. It’s anticipated that North Queensland, with its recent Priority Place listing as the ‘Eastern Forests of Far North Queensland’, will to be part of this. Among other things, there will be a focus on indigenous partnerships, restoration initiatives, threatened species and threatening processes. Also, NESP’s Climate Systems Hub is very interested in a tropical case study.

Strong messages from the symposium included:

  • Longer-term funding: This is needed to prevent recovery reversals, make recovery actions more strategic, support the efforts of recovery teams and build capacity for traditional owner-led recovery efforts. One example shared at the symposium of a recovery reversal as a result of short-term funding is Amazon Frogbit in the Barron River and other Far North waterways. This choking weed was contained in the Barron River after a two-year clean-up effort but without follow-up funding it returned, the infestation area expanded and major flooding led to further infestations that are now threatening the Mitchell River.
  • Traditional knowledge: Traditional knowledge and increased Traditional Owner involvement is crucial in threatened species recovery work and landscape restoration. Real and meaningful engagement with Tradition Owners could require structural reform.
  • Place-based recovery efforts: Many threatened species and ecological communities share the same habitat and/or face similar threats – the value of multi-species place-based approaches, and the need to increase coordination, capacity and resources, especially given the newly announced ‘Eastern Forests of Far North Queensland’ priority place.
  • Conservation management: Effective management combines knowledge, action and monitoring. There is a need to align state and federal government recovery team frameworks and threatened species priorities and plans, while recognising that community groups have a strong desire to retain ownership of recovery efforts.
  • Succession planning: The importance of succession planning in recovery teams and recovery efforts.
  • Future events/networks: The benefits of bringing groups together to share and learn from each other.

Symposium co-coordinator, Terrain’s Jacqui Diggins, said participants had provided great feedback about the event.

“It’s a rare chance to bring everyone together to share knowledge and hone recovery efforts. We have so many species in our region that don’t exist anywhere else – from animals to plant life including endangered Mabi and littoral rainforests. Their biggest threats are habitat loss, fragmentation, invasive weeds, pests and inappropriate fire regimes. With recovery teams made up of many partners including conservation group members, Traditional Owners, researchers, industries and government agencies and corporations, events like this are so important. It takes a combined effort and a strong base of volunteers to recover threatened species.”


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