Priority threat management to protect Kimberley wildlife

Expert ecologists and land managers in the Kimberley region have worked together to prioritise threat management options to protect native wildlife in the region.

The Challenge

Alarming declines of native animals

The Kimberley is an iconic region in northern Australia, boasting spectacular and varied landscapes that are home to diverse and unique assemblages of plants and animals. The region covers an area of 30 million ha in Western Australia.

Gouldian Finches (Erythrura gouldiae). © Bruce Doran

Indigenous Australians have inhabited the Kimberley for tens of thousands of years and it remains an important region for contemporary Aboriginal culture.

European exploration in 1879 led to pastoral development and grazing has become the predominant use of land in the region. The Kimberley is famous for the thriving pearl industries of Broome, the distinctive pink diamonds of Kununurra and its growing popularity as a tourist destination.

The Kimberley is also known as one of the most ecologically important regions in Australia. It has some 65 species of endemic wildlife: native vertebrate fauna found nowhere else in the world. The region's remoteness means its ecosystems and species assemblages are relatively intact compared with the rest of Australia.

The North Kimberley bioregion is one of only two in Australia (the other being in the Tiwi Islands) likely to retain all mammal fauna for the last 200 years. However, the wildlife of the Kimberley is faced with increasing threats. Recent monitoring data has shown alarming declines amongst this globally important suite of native animals.

Our Response

Using expert knowledge to identify threats

Star Finches (Neochmia ruficauda) near Fitzroy Crossing. © Bruce Doran

This project provides a prioritisation of threat management in the Kimberley region based on cost-effectiveness for wildlife, which is the likely benefits to wildlife divided by cost.

The key threat management actions required to restore and maintain functioning populations of wildlife in the Kimberley region, the level of investment required and the likely improvement in wildlife persistence gained per dollar spent on each action are identified.

Focus is on actions that are technically and socially feasible and which abate specific mainland-based threats to wildlife, defined here as native vertebrate fauna (additional threats on the islands off the Kimberley coast were not addressed).

The Results

Identifying the outcomes of investing

Key scientific findings from this research, which can be further explored in the full project report are:

  • without effective investment in the management actions we identify, 45 species of wildlife are likely to be functionally lost from the Kimberley in the next 20 years
  • the wildlife of the Kimberley is likely to be secured with an initial and immediate investment of $95 million, followed by an ongoing investment of $40 million per annum
  • current annual investments in conservation management would need to be at least doubled, and spent optimally and effectively, to secure the Kimberley's wildlife species
  • actions vary in terms of their cost-effectiveness
  • investment in the actions we identify has vast potential to provide benefits outside wildlife conservation.


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