National

Experts plead for funds to save species

By AAP Newswire

Australia's wildlife experts are pleading with the government to flush the sector with cash to fund the recovery of threatened species and stop more being pushed to the brink of extinction by bushfires.

Conservationists, land management groups, environmental advocates and zoo representatives insisted the federal government could not return to business-as-usual when the bushfire season is over.

The remarks were made during a meeting between sector experts, Environment Minister Sussan Ley and Threatened Species Commissioner, Dr Sally Box, in Canberra on Wednesday.

Dr Box told the meeting the government would prioritise preventing extinctions and protecting habitats that are left, according to multiple representatives who were present.

"There were already almost 2000 species threatened by extinction, and that was before the fire," Samantha Vine, Birdlife Australia's head of conservation said after the meeting.

"Even if this event doesn't cause extinction, it's pushing them closer."

The federal government this week announced a $50 million wildlife and habitat recovery package, in what is understood to be an initial investment.

But the sector says the amount it needs to do the work is enormous.

"It's going to be billions, we're talking billions, and that was before the fires," Ms Vine added.

The federal government's preliminary assessment of how much threatened species habitat has been lost will be released by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, an expert panel of ecologists, conservation biologists and other scientists are finalising their areas of focus.

They are understood to be getting food, water and shelter to surviving animals, protecting remaining habitat, salvaging threatened species, predator control and rapid impact assessment.

The environmental experts called to Parliament House have urged the government to take a long view, saying while there is support for adaptation and resilience building, there has been push-back against mitigation.

"This can't be seen as an immediate problem only," Kelly O'Shanassy, Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive said.

"If we only talk about the short term, that means the causes of this crisis are never addressed."

Environmental funding has been slashed by about 40 per cent since 2013, Ms O'Shannassy said, and now is the time to not just restore it but fund it further.

Putting more money upfront now will soften the blow to the government, the economy and communities later, the Wilderness Society Australia's Suzanne Milthorpe said.

"This has to be an opportunity for Australia to no longer be the extinction nation, but for us to work not just towards bushfire recovery, but environmental health, so that we can lessen the shocks of this kind of event happening again," she added.