WWF calls for stronger environment laws
WWF-Australia spokesperson Katherine Howard said not enough was being done to protect the local habitats of endangered animals, such as the bilby, northern marsupial mole, Pilbara olive python and northern quoll.
“WA’s Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 is, in a word, outdated,” Howard said.
“This Act provides no protection for the habitat of threatened species and only really regulates the ‘take’ (the killing or picking) of animals and plants.”
After a decade of rapid mining and population growth in the Pilbara, WWF-Australia hopes the issue gains more urgency ahead of state elections next March.
When contacted by the Pilbara Echo, Environment Minister Bill Marmion acknowledged the laws need reviewing.
A spokesperson for the Minister said: “The Minister recognises the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 requires updating and is seeking advice from the Department of Environment and Conservation.”
Mr Marmion’s office also pointed out that $3 million in funding had recently been allocated to the conservation of endangered species in Western Australia.
As well as funding for endangered animals, the dibbler, western swamp tortoise and western ground parrot, about “$1.6 million has been provided for critically endangered flora recovery with 143 species currently under threat of extinction,” Mr Marmion said.
WWF-Australia’s Howard said the Environment Minister’s comments were an encouraging first step.
“Minister Marmion’s commitment to seek further advice on the need to replace the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 is a welcome move,” Howard said.
“Funding for threatened species is always welcome and much needed.”
“But what WA really needs is fundamental legislative reform.”
Howard said the Pilbara was a special region as it was home to some of Australia’s rarest animals, including the golden kakarratul or northern marsupial mole.
Tunnelling silently through the Pilbara sands, the kakarratul has a lineage believed to begin at the time of the dinosaurs and “is so different from all other marsupials that scientists cannot decide how to classify them”, Howard said.
Howard said the Pilbara is also the only place the small, red-coated marsupial, the kaluta, is found, and one of the few remaining homes for the bilby, which was once widespread across Australia.
Other rare animals include the princess parrot and western pebble mouse, which carries pebbles in its mouth to build-up mounds that, over generations, can grow up to nine square-metres.
With the endangered northern quoll and vulnerable Pilbara olive python having been recorded in areas currently being explored for mining, Howard says there is even greater urgency for improved conservation laws.