Threatened species list in need
of a good edit
October 24, 2013
[start of text only....]
"ON July 9, 1904, Alan Owston shot a female rainbow bee-eater that
had migrated north from Australia to the island of Okinawa south of
This bedraggled bird, now in the American Museum of Natural
History, remains the only record of a bee-eater from Japan. Despite
this, 70 years after the bird died, the bee-eater was appended to the
Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement.
JAMBA, as it is known,
is one four international agreements that make migrants matters of
national environmental significance under Australia's foremost
environmental legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Act. Because bee-eaters appear on an EPBC Act list of
migrants, every environmental impact assessment has to consider whether a
proposed development will have a detrimental effect on the species.
ever have, because bee-eaters are abundant and widespread. However, for
the very reason that they are so common, almost every environmental
consultant has a copy-and-paste paragraph justifying why bee-eaters
should again be ignored - though they have sometimes had to argue hard
to convince those setting conditions.
Forty years ago the author of the JAMBA schedules was
probably pleased to get any bird recognised under international law. The
same list includes several extinct species and one, the Roper River
scrub-robin, which we now think never existed.
such inclusions are seen as at best a waste of time, at worst a major
unnecessary impediment. So too are the many marine species than never
touch the sea - including some that never cross water at all if they can
help it. Birds like Trumpet Manucodes that never fly across water, even
to islands just offshore, are still listed as marine species.
errors in listing are more than petty mistakes. They can have major
ramifications - both for the species they miss and the species wrongly
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