Sydney, Mar 9: Australia takes pride in its hopping Kangaroo, cuddly Koala and hairy-nosed Wombat, but when it comes to conserving their wildlife Aussies find themselves on the lowest rung. According to statistics, Aussies have the worst record for conserving their wildlife. Of all the mammal species that have become extinct in the past 200 years, nearly half are Australian. The precarious state of much of Australia's surviving wildlife is of even greater concern that has now forced the conservationists to launch a project aimed at saving ten unique creatures facing the threat of extinction.
The Flagship Species Programme led by Tammie Matson of WWF Australia will focus on ten endangered species, including the snubfish dolphin discovered in 2005, the athletic brush-tailed rock wallaby that can scale almost vertical outcrops and the brilliantly hued Gouldian finch also known as the painted or rainbow finch. Land clearing resulting in habitat destruction, a change in fire regimes -- from the patchy, selective burnings carried out by Aborigines to today's devastating bushfires -- are the two major reasons for extinction. The introduction of exotic predators, namely feral cats and foxes, have added to the problem. Their impact has been compounded by the culling of dingoes, which would otherwise have kept cat and fox numbers down. Zoologists said most Australian species are unique to the continent, so when one vanishes, the loss is felt globally.