The wildlife of the Australian and New Zealand landmasses house a truly unusual component of global biodiversity, a fact now held with a degree of national pride. By global standards, Australia and New Zealand have relatively few people, the majority of whom can trace their ancestry back to other continents in fairly recent time. Nonetheless, one can sense that a frontier mentality of conquer and survive is being replaced with a sense of being custodians for something special. And there is good reason for this. Australian and New Zealand wildlife, uniquely sculpted by long isolation, have been especially vulnerable to the impacts of the anthropocene. This book presents some of the vital research that has been conducted to describe what wildlife is present, what the conservation issues are, and how best to conserve it.
Threats to Australian and New Zealand wildlife are varied and include introduced plants and animals, changes in human land use, pollution, disease and the looming issue of climate change. The loss of native biota has been rapid. A haunting reminder of this can be gained in parts of Central Australia where one can stand on earth raised above the desert plains by the strenuous efforts of the burrowing bettong, a species now removed from the landscape, and their presence still remembered by those living today. Similarly, when listening to the dawn chorus on one of New Zealand’s predator-free offshore islands, one is reminded of the relative silence of most mainland forests, sadly devoid of many native songbirds that once were widespread. While this book serves to remind us of the natural heritage that is under threat in Australia and New Zealand, it has also offered hope, describing the work that is underway to conserve it. There are solutions to many of the issues and a community of passionate individuals who are willing to work on them. The issues and solutions facing wildlife on Austral Ark will not be reiterated in any detail here, instead, the focus is on how we might ensure that all of those that are motivated to help conserve wildlife are harnessed for best effect.