Threatened Australian Animals

Bilby is an endangered animal

There are over 300 endangered animals in Australia today. These threatened animals include the koala, wombat, cassowary, and quokka. Unfortunately, many of these animals are in danger of disappearing forever due to unsustainable human activities like hunting, habitat destruction, climate change and environmental pollution and disease. For example, the Tasmanian tiger became extinct in just 100 years after European settlers hunted it to death. Likewise, the gastric-brooding frog became extinct in the mid-1980s due to a pathogenic fungus spread by humans. Even the koala was almost hunted into extinction.

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Sea Lion Endangered

Sea Lion

Australian sea lions have stocky bodies, a large head, and short narrow flippers. They hunt fish and squid. There are only about 10,000 left.


Whale Endangered


Humpback whales travel up from the Antarctic to give birth and feed their young. They can grow to 12 – 16 metres and weigh 36,000 kgs.


Plains Wanderer Critical

Plains Wanderer

Plains wanderers are small quail-like birds that live in semi-arid grasslands. They prefer to run rather than fly and fall easy prey to foxes.


Eastern Bettong Vulnerable

Eastern Bettong

The eastern bettong became extinct on the mainland in the 1920s because of the red fox and rabbit. A small number still survive in Tasmania.


What is Extinction? What does 'Extinct' Mean?

Dinosaurs is extinct

Photo: Extinct Dinosaur

Extinction means that there are no more of a particular type of plant or animal living anywhere in the world—they are extinct. A clear example of extinction is the dinosaurs. They disappeared from the face of the earth 65 million years ago. Extinction is an ongoing process of evolution. It is estimated that over 90% of all animals that ever lived since life began on the earth are now extinct. Extinction is usually a slow process that takes many hundreds, if not thousands of years.

In recent time, however, due to human activities, the number of species becoming extinct has accelerated at an alarming rate. Some species have become extinct in just a few years.

\ Tasmanian tiger is extinct

Photo: Extinct Tasmanian Tiger

In Australia, the Tasmanian tiger became extinct in just 100 years after European settlement. Similarly, in America, the passenger pigeon, which once numbered in the hundreds of millions, became extinct in less than a hundred years because of indiscriminate hunting by European settlers.

Remember, once they are gone, they are gone forever. That is extinction or to be extinct .

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Who Decides? Organisations that Determine Species Status

Many conservation organisations have their own classification criteria for determining a species extinction threat level. Everybody agrees on what extinction is, but they differ in their identification of the various stages leading to extinction.

The worldwide organisation for determining the status of an animal species is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature ( IUCN). This body regularly publishes its Red List of Threatened Species. In Australia, various federal and state environmental protection agencies also publish their own lists. The Australian Department of the Environment Endangered Australian Animals List identifies many Australian native animals are endangered and threatened with extinction.

IUCN Classification of animals

Photo: IUCN Classification of animals

The diagram on the left is a simplified version of the IUCN classifications. Basically, there are three main categories. They range from Least Concern through Threatened to Extinct. The IUCN classification bundles Critical, Endangered and Vulnerable into a broader more general category labelled Threatened.

The general public and the media, however, seem to prefer the more evocative term "endangered' to mean threatened. We too prefer the term 'endangered', to mean these animals are in imminent danger of disappearing from the face of the earth.

What is an Endangered Animal? Definition of Endangered Species

An endangered species is a group of wild animals or plants that are in danger of becoming extinct, totally disappearing from the earth permanently.

What Causes an Animal to Become Endangered? What Factors Contribute to Animals Extinction

Animals and plants risk becoming endangered and eventually extinct because of circumstances they cannot cope with. These include natural disasters, climate change, human impacts, competition from introduced animals, and disease.

Natural Disasters

Cataclysmic events have occurred throughout the earth’s history. Sixty-five million years ago an asteroid killed the dinosaurs. The desertification of the Sahara and the drying up of Africa similarly had significant effects on species survival. These are naturally occurring events.

Climate Change

polar bear on melting ice cap

Photo: Polar bear on melted ice sheet

Bleached coral

Photo: Coral bleaching

Changes in the world’s climate brought about by natural or human-induced changes can seriously affect the viability of animal species. For example, global warming and the consequent melting of the polar ice caps are threatening the future of polar bears. Closer to home, changes in sea temperature are believed to be contributing to the death of vast tracts of coral on the Great Barrier Reef.

Human Impacts

In recent time, with the growth in human populations and technology, the man-made contribution to species endangerment and annihilation has increased tremendously. We have contributed to species extinction by large scale habitat destruction and modification by agriculture, mining and urban growth, land clearing, destroying forests and the pollution of waterways, rivers, and the world’s oceans. Many animal species have also been significantly impacted by human commercial, recreational and other activities. These include commercial and recreational hunting, over-harvesting as in the case of fishing and whaling. For example, the koala almost became extinct because it was killed for its fur and the Tasmanian tiger was considered a pest and hunted to extinction.

Competition & Displacement by Introduced Species

Many animals were introduced into local environments without due consideration to their impact on local fauna. Cane toads, rabbits, red foxes and feral cats, for example, have become invasive and killed or displaced many native Australian animals.


Native animals also fall foul of diseases. For example, in recent time, koalas have been affected by chlamydia epidemics which has left many female kolas sterile. The Tasmanian Devil Tumour Disease has wiped out large numbers of the Tasmanian devil.

Types of Australian Species Endangered What Types of Animals Face Extinction?

Number of Endangered
Australian Animals






Fish 7 16 24 -
Frogs 5 14 10 4
Reptiles 8 17 34 1
Birds 9 47 62 24
Mammals 5 34 >55 27
Other 23 17 >11 6
Total 57 161 196 62+

According to the Australian Department of the Environment's Endangered Australian Animals List, many Australian native animals are endangered and threatened with extinction. For example, even the cuddly koala is listed as vulnerable, the cassowary and night parrot are listed as endangered, and the gouldian finch and the 'bum breathing' white-throated snapping turtle as critical.

About 300 species of Australian animals are endangered. These animals may disappear from the face of the Earth forever. They will become extinct! Presently, one Australian animal becomes extinct every 5 years. Humans are responsible for this terrible situation.

Extinct Australian Animals Many native animals of Australia became extinct since humans arrived

Since the arrival of European settlers in 1788, Australia has lost numerous native animals and plants. The Tasmanian Tiger is a prominent example of a recently extinct Australian animal. The last died in captivity in 1936.

Learn About Extinct Australian Animals