Both Australia and New Zealand are countries blessed with an extraordinary diversity of fascinating animals and plants, and the biodiversity of our region is a major source of pleasure to residents and visiting tourists alike. However, all is not well with our wildlife and conservation of our precious native species is proving to be an increasingly uphill struggle. Most people realise that past major extinction events have been a characteristic of the history of life on planet Earth, such as those of the Permian era some 250 million years ago (MYA), and the end of the Cretaceous (65 MYA), which marked the demise of the dinosaurs. However, the notion that we are now living amidst a current ‘great extinction’ may come as a surprise to many. There is one important respect in which the present great extinction differs from the preceding ones, namely that most of the available evidence suggests that it is anthropogenic in origin; it is ‘man made’. Even if we already accept this picture of a current man-made extinction event, there is a tendency to assume that it is mainly happening elsewhere.
This book is an attempt to take stock of the state of wildlife in Australia and New Zealand, and to draw attention to the severity of the numerous species declines and extinctions. However, a wake-up call is all very well, but without careful documentation of the present state of play, it is easy for us all to remain complacent. There is no way in which one or two people (in our case three) can assemble this kind of information on their own: the knowledge required is just too detailed. So we, the co-editors, have sought out those people who have the necessary expertise, and persuaded them towrite the chapters of this book. It is ameasure of their concern for the biodiversity of the region that these authors have taken the time and trouble to do so.