A letter has just arrived from BirdLife highlighting the plight of the Lesser
Sand Plover. The letter mentions habitat destruction, and I quote: The culprit
could be a coal port, a casino or pollution.
In the Top End (and I should think elsewhere) there is another threat. Lesser
Sand Plover plus the other birds mentioned in the letter - Eastern Curlew and
Curlew Sandpiper - are found mostly in coastal and subcoastal wetlands all
around the Top End. Ray Chatto recorded tens of thousands of this species, and
somewhat lesser numbers of EC and CS, in surveys carried out in 2003.
Sea levels around the Top End have risen by 17 cm in the last twenty years
(State of the Climate Report, CSIRO, 2012), and consequently these wetlands are
being wiped out. Members of the Amateur Fishers’ Association of the NT,
horrified by the destruction, have posted photos of the havoc wreaked upon one
of the most significant, that of the Mary River delta, on their website. I
don’t have the URL but if anyone would like to email me direct I’ll post the
photos. I presented these photos in my presentation on the threats to birds at
the Colombia Bird Festival, 2013 (I’ve just found a photo in an article
The Mary River has a catchment of over 8 000 squ km. A report by Lestang &
Griffith stated that 240 squ. kms of freshwater wetland had been destroyed by
salt water intrusion. I can’t see a date on this research paper but suspect
for various reasons it may have been written in the late 1990s. Thus salt
water intrusion is likely to be far greater by now. Is sealevel rise both in
northern Australia and elsewhere along flyways a greater threat than
development and pollution? I don’t know. However while development etc will
affect some, I imagine that sea level rise could affect all, albeit to varying
The threats to our wildlife have many other dimensions. In the Top End they
also include massive weed infestations now knocking out woodland and making
wetlands uninhabitable for waterbirds (suitable for cattle though which will
please some); inappropriate fire regimes; exotic predators; and the annual
slashing of funding for outstations, making it difficult for TO’s to stay on
their country, and attempt to control weeds, feral animals, and fire.
Development in the Top End has proceeded often without any sort of
environmental report, and because there appear to be few surveys it’s easy for
Government and business to claim that no wildlife is threatened.
Supporting national organisations is one way to help. However, extinction is
often incremental and local, and therefore largely invisible to national
organisations. Here local bodies are most important, even those not directly
involved with wildlife or conservation. Which is why I work with my
Aboriginal relatives, the CWA and the local firies.
Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow
PO Box 71
Darwin River, NT, Australia 0841
043 8650 835
PhD candidate, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.
Founding Member: Ecotourism Australia
Nominated by Earthfoot for Condé Nast’s International Ecotourism Award, 2004.
With every introduction of a plant or animal that goes feral this continent
becomes a little less unique, a little less Australian.
<BR> Birding-Aus mailing list
<BR> To change settings or unsubscribe visit: