An open letter to the Prime Minister from 248 concerned scientists

Dear Prime Minister,

We the undersigned are scientists who every day study, catalogue and document Australia's unique native species and ecosystems and work out the evidence base needed to save them. Through our work we know intimately just how important the diversity of Australia's natural world is to the fabric of our nation and our social and economic prosperity.

Sadly, our work also tells us Australia is amid an extinction crisis. We are documenting a rapid decline in the overall numbers of species and the overall diversity of wildlife across the land, rivers and seas of our country.1 Australia's native species are disappearing at an alarming rate.2 In the last decade alone three of our native species have been wiped out.3 Another 17 animals could go extinct in the next 20 years.4 And while there are already more than 1800 plants and animals that are formally listed as threatened with extinction,5 it's clear this is an underestimate. In reality, many more face extinction.6

Our extinction crisis is primarily a result of habitat destruction, invasive species, altered fire regimes, disease and climate change damage.7 But thankfully we know that when governments lead and invest in nature conservation, and partner with researchers, Indigenous communities, conservation organisations, businesses and everyday Australians, we can successfully protect and restore our wildlife for future generations.

Increased investment in nature conservation must be backed by strong national environment laws that protect our natural world from further destruction. These laws must safeguard our intact ecosystems and protect the critical areas people and wildlife need to survive and tackle our most pressing threats. But our current laws are failing because they are too weak, have inadequate review and approval processes, and are not overseen by an effective compliance regime. Since they were established, 7.7 million hectares of threatened species habitat has been destroyed.8 That's an area larger than Tasmania. Meanwhile, the number of extinctions continue to climb, while new threats emerge and spread unchecked.

A review of our national environment laws is imminent. Your government has a once-in-a-decade opportunity to demonstrate national leadership and fix our laws in order to protect and restore nature across Australia. We urge you to embrace this opportunity, strengthen our laws, invest in nature and build a great legacy by ending our extinction crisis.

Jim Radford
Professor Don Driscoll
Professor Alan Anderson
Professor Glenda Wardle
Dr Pawel Waryszaj
Associate Professor Peter Green
Professor Marcel Klassen
Jodie Cosham
Mr Timothy Vale
Dr Mylene Mariette
Dr Ayesha Tulloch
Ms Laura Tan
Ms Emma Spencer
Dr Michael Weston
Louise Gilfedder
Dr David Tierney
Associate Professor Noel Preece
Professor Brendan Wintle
Dr Glenda Verrinder
Professor Maria Byrne
Ms Michelle Ward
Ms Teghan Collingwood
Adjunct Professor Jeffrey Leis
Dr Julie Schofield
Dr Kaori Yokochi
Dr Stephen Murphy
Dr Leonie Seabrook
Associate Professor John White
Dr Jennifer Whinam
Dr Thomas Newsome
Professor Lesley Hughes
Professor James Watson
Associate Professor Brett Murphy
Dr Hawthorne Beyer
Dr Hugh Davies
Mr Robin Leppit
Ms Sarah Fischer
Dr April Reside
Professor Stephen Sarre
Dr Sean Bellairs
Dr Emma Kennedy
Professor Sam Banks
Professor Karen Gibb
Dr Samantha Travers
Dr Ian Baird
Dr Kate Callister
Mr Nicholas Wilson
Associate. Professor Tina Bell
Dr Aaron Greenville
Dr Catherine Moran
Ms Nicole Shumway
Mr Eddy Cannella
Professor Steven Chown
Dr Steve Leonard
Associate Professor Andy Leigh
Associate Professor S. Topa Petit
Professor Peter Chesson
Lincoln Kern
Dr Laura Sonter
Dr Cayne Layton
Mr Harry John MacDermott
Dr Rebecca Spindler
Associate Professor Emily Nicholson
Dr Greg Kerr
Ms Lily van Eeden
Ms Sarah Mulhall
Dr Kamaljit K Sangha
Dr Joan Gibbs
Dr Daniel Montesinos
Dr Jean Chesson
Dr Emily Flies
Dr Amelia Wenger
Associate Professor Andy Le Brocque
Dr Steven Douglas
Dr Pieter Arnold
Professor Kate Buchanan
Dr Ronda Green
Associate Professor Rachel Standish
Associate Professor Cynthia Riginos
Ms Leanne Greenwood
Ms Hannah Carle
Ms Annette McKinley
Dr Scott van Barneveld
Dr Jill Shephard
Mr Bill Richdale
Visiting Professor Barry Fox
Ms Nanette Nicholson
Dr Ana Palma Gartner
Ms Luisa Ducki
Professor Andrew Bennett
Bec Donaldson
Miss Marianne Coquilleau
Ms Karen Riley
Professor Chris Dickman
Mr Chung-Huey Wu
Dr Carolyn Bussey
Dr Michael Reid
Dr Alison Lullfitz
Dr Glenn Shea
Associate Professor Gunnar Keppel
Professor Richard Fuller
Dr Todd Erickson
Distinguished Professor Emeritus Byron Lamont
Distinguished Research Professor William Laurance
Mr Joshua Whitehead
Dr Sue Gould
Ms Angela Sanders
Dr Bethany Jackson
Phil Papas
Distinguished Professor Kingsley Dixon
Dr Benjamin Matthew Ford
Shubham Chhajed
Professor Barbara Nowak
Mrs Rebecca Rogers
Profesor María Pérez Fernández
Dr Pia Lentini
Professor Jennifer Firn
Dr Colin Trainor
Professor Hans Lambers
Dr Anna Le Souëf
Ms Anita Huber
Dr Jane Catford
Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
Dr Tim Doherty
Mr Christopher O’Bryan
Dr William Steele
Ms Erin Westerhuis
Dr Arn Tolsma
Professor John Woinarski
Dean Ingwersen
Dr Chloe Sato
Professor Chris Johnson
Ms Stephanie Chen
Dr Angie Haslem
Professor Paul Sutton
Dr Barbara Stewart
Dr Susanne Zajitschek
Mrs Annette Deppe
Tristan Derham
Mrs Robyn Rawlings
Mr Andrew Katsis
Dr Jasmine Lee
Dr Tommy Leung
Professor Una Ryan
Associate Professor Mathew Crowther
Dr Robert Davis
Dr Andrew Edwards
Professor Keith Christian
Dr Ascelin Gordon
Ms Ebony Cowan
Alan Stenhouse
Dr Andrew Rogers
Dr Sean Maxwell
Dr Elizabeth Barber
Dr Christine Hosking
Dr Megan Evans
Associate Professor Linda Selvey
Professor Margie Mayfield
Dr Britta Wigginton
Mr Christopher MacColl
Associate Professor Dale Nimmo
Dr Nina Lansbury Hall
Dr Tamzyn Davey
Ms Claire Greenwell
Miss Micha Jackson
Associate Professor Diana Fisher
Dr Kate Reardon-Smith
Dr Lori Lach
Ms Katharina-Victoria Perez-Hammerle
Dr Michaela Plein
Professor Richard Kingsford
Professor Craig Moritz
Dr Christine Dudgeon
Leslie Roberson
Melinda Greenfield
Rachel Miller
Dr Rachel Eberhard
Professor Lin Schwarzkopf
Dr Madoc Sheehan
Dr Peter Jones
Dr Jan Marten Huizenga
Nick Wardrop
Justin Dabner
Dr Penny van Oosterzee
James Connell
Ana Gracanin
Andy Baker
Dr Claudia Benham
Associate Professor Helen Bostock
Adjunct Professor Peter Valentine
Andrew Chin
Dr Norman Duke
Sheena Gillman
Amanda Hay
Associate Professor Simon Foale
Dr Leonie Valentine
Tony Squires
Dr Tracy Rout
Dr Jermey Simmonds
Courtney Chilton
Dr Christine Schlesinger
Brooke Williams
Emeritus Professor Ian White
Dr Marta Yebra
Alex van der Meer Simo
Meena Sritharan
Professor Andrew Thompson
Renée Hartley
Dr Liz Hanna
Will Kemp
Sumaiya Quasim
Julia Imrie
Tony Boston
Dr Steven Lade
Dr Nathalie Butt
Dr Kathryn Bowen
Dr Rosie Cooney
Associate Professor Fiona Dyer
Professor Ralph Mac Nally
Dr Jen Wood
Holly Vuong
Clare Crane
Dr Martin Stringer
Dr Skye Cameron
Dr Vera Weisbecke
Professor Iain Gordon
Dr Jasmyn Lynch
Associate Professor Philip Gibbons
Dr Ian Davies
Noel Ruting
Kat McGilp
Dr Carolyn Hogg
Kate Harriden
Dr Sue McIntyre
Professor Carla Catterall
Wise Hok Wai Lum
Dr Kerryn Parry-Jones
Monica Fahey
Tida Nou
Dr Eddie van Etten
Bob Makinson
Giselle Owens
Dr Lynda Hanlon
Andrés Felipe Suárez Castro
Professor Sarah Bekessy
Dr Alex Kusmanoff
Lindall Kidd
Associate Professor Euan Ritchie 


1 Woinarski, John & Burbidge, Andrew & Harrison, Peter. "Ongoing unraveling of a continental fauna: Decline and extinction of Australian mammals since European settlement." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 112. no.15 (April 2015) 4531-4540. https://www.pnas.org/content/112/15/4531

2 The IUCN Red List of threatened species. Table 6a: Red List Category summary country totals. Updated 05 July 2018. http://cmsdocs.s3.amazonaws.com/summarystats/2018-1_Summary_Stats_Page_Documents/2018_1_RL_Stats_Table_6a.pdf

3 Woinarski, John & Garnett, Stephen & Legge, Sarah & Lindenmayer, David. "The contribution of policy, law, management, research, and advocacy failings to the recent extinctions of three Australian vertebrate species." Conservation Biology 31. no 1 (2016): 13 -23. https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/cobi.12852

4 Geyle Hayley M., et al. "Quantifying extinction risk and forecasting the number of impending Australian bird and mammal extinctions." Pacific Conservation Biology 24, (April 2018):157-167. https://www.publish.csiro.au/PC/PC18006

5 Australian Government. Department of the Environment and Energy. Species Profile and Threats Database: EPBC Act List of Threatened Fauna. Canberra: SPRAT.
http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicthreatenedlist.pl#birds_critically_endangered

6 National Environmental Science Program Threatened Species Recovery (TSR) Hub. "The ongoing decline in the population and conservation status of threatened fauna." Submission to the Senate Inquiry on Australia's faunal extinction crisis. Submission 159 - Attachment 1, 2019. https://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=0e3fd676-fd7b-4a07-bd5c-c110f426c2a6&subId=659993

7 Cresswell ID & Murphy H (2016). Biodiversity. In: Australia state of the environment 2016, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/biodiversity, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65ac828812

8 Ward, Michelle S., et al. "Lots of loss with little scrutiny: the attrition of habitat critical for threatened species in Australia." Conservation Science and Practice (September 2019). https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/csp2.117

This open letter was coordinated by the Australian Conservation Foundation, with advertising paid for by the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Places You Love Alliance.