The Australian Government has committed itself to a “zero extinction” target for all Australian wildlife. 

The target was laid out in the government’s recently released Threatened Species Action Plan, a decade-long strategy that commits the country to prioritising the conservation of 110 species most at risk of extinction, like the Australian sea lion, Kangaroo Island echidna, mountain pygmy-possum and grey nurse shark.

Australian Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek said the government plans to achieve the target through its previous promise to conserve 30% of Australia’s land mass — an additional 50 million hectares — by 2030 while simultaneously cleansing the continent of feral cats and foxes.

Twenty-two targets have been set for 2027 to ensure the “high-level” zero extinction objective is on track.

"By prioritising 110 species and 20 places for conservation, the plan will drive action where it is needed most and will deliver flow-on benefits to other threatened plants and animals in the same habitats,” Plibersek said in the action plan’s forward statement. “We don’t accept that environmental decline and extinction are inevitable.”

Plibersek labelled climate change, natural disasters, invasive species and humans as the largest threats to native wildlife.

The action plan comes in the aftermath of the July release of the 2021 State of the Environment report, which characterised Australia’s environment as “poor and deteriorating.” The government report found the country had lost more mammal species to extinction than any other continent, citing a lack of solid environmental management frameworks as a key contributing factor.

Plibersek promised robust action in the wake of the report’s release. 

The action plan has largely been welcomed.

Australia’s Invasive Species Councilcalled the zero extinction target “critically important,” while explaining that the plan’s strategy to invest in new technologies to tackle feral cat populations was “vital.” Still, the council said the government could go further to reform national environmental laws, a suggestion concurred by Humane Society International Australia (HSI).

"Key to success will be reform of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act next year, with a strong set of national environmental standards to strictly protect species and their habitats, as well as a substantial increase in resources,” HSI said in a media release. “Scientists have said that $1.69 billion per year is required to tackle Australia’s extinction crisis.”

Australia has currently committed $224 million for native species protection.

The country now joins New Zealand and various European countries in committing to zero extinction targets.


Defend the Planet

Australia Sets 'Zero Extinction' Target for Plants and Animals

By Madeleine Keck