Four Australians that you’ve never heard of are in danger

Some animals are more photogenic than others. We see cute cats all over the internet, but very little of the endangered Hirudo medicinalis, better known as a medical leech. At Greenpeace we care about all the creatures in our environment – big or small, furry or slimy. They all play an important role in the delicate balance of our ecosystems – from bees to blue whales. Yet some animals are always going be more photogenic and feature more heavily in our campaigns, like some of the beautiful last 400 Sumatran tigers.

Then we have the quiet achievers. 

Pale-headed Snake A local inhabitant of Leard State Forest rests unaware of the danger to his home and habitat. © Abram Powell/Greenpeace

A Pale-headed Snake and Large-eared Pied Bat. © Abram Powell/Greenpeace

Large scale industrial projects – like coal mines or port developments – often put some of the most endangered and threatened of these ‘quiet achievers’ at risk. But because they’re so  little known, companies think they can go ahead and destroy these species’ homes unnoticed.
In February we found that the threatened Large-eared Pied Bat and Pale-headed Snake are being added to the already long list of 0ver 30 threatened species having large areas of their habitat destroyed at Maules Creek for the Whitehaven coal mine.


The Black-throated Finch (southern)
Meanwhile the endangered Black-throated Finch (Southern) is ‘in the way’ of the proposed Carmichael coal mine. This finch is effectively the canary in our coal mine. The southern Black-throated Finch is distinguished from the northern subspecies by its little white rump. The little bird is now extinct at most sites south of the Burdekin River in Queensland. It is confined to very few remaining ‘pockets’ of suitable habitat and its population decline is continuing.

Queensland Coal Development

Carmichael coal mine. © Tom Jefferson / Greenpeace

Does anyone care about these little bush beasts?
These odd little native Australian creatures are not often spotted and avoid contact with people whenever possible. Photos are rare and cute ones are rarer. Let me assure you that the Pale-headed Snake is not as cute as a mother koala with her baby. Here at Greenpeace we wondered if anyone would even care about these species?

They may not be as cuddly – but yes, people do care. They care strongly about these photogenically challenged little bush beasts.

The significance of Australia’s biodiversity is only just being fully understood. 7-10% of all the species on Earth are found within Australia. Australia has unique wildlife as it was separated from other landmasses for millions of years, allowing our ecosystems to evolve uniquely.

Protecting the smaller and more vulnerable species is equally important as protecting the larger animals, not only to maintain biodiversity, but also because our ecosystems are dependent on all species in order to maintain balance.

Australia is party to many international treaties and other agreements designed to protect biodiversity globally. The Australian Government’s Department for the Environment discusses the value of biodiversity saying:

“interactions of other species with the nonliving environment produce benefits for humans, such as water filtration; protection from floods; pest control; regulation of the atmosphere; formation of soil and maintenance of its fertility; and a range of physical, mental health and cultural benefits.”

PhilThe Vine

Ecologist  Phil Spark and a Greenpeace activist marking an endangered plant – Tylophora linearis.  © Tom Jefferson / Greenpeace

Greenpeace’s ‘Threatened Species Protection Unit’
At Maules Creek, ecologist  Phil Spark has spent many years studying these Australian native animals and his passion for their safety runs deep. On 20 February 2014, Phil joined Greenpeace’s ‘Threatened Species Protection Unit’ to enter the Leard State Forest – proposed site for the controversial Maules Creek coal mine – to document endangered species omitted by proponents, Whitehaven Coal, during the approval process.  Endangered species, Tylophora linearis and the Large-eared Pied Bat were not included in the Maules Creek mine site initial assessment when the site passed its environmental approvals.

The complete list of vulnerable species threatened at the Maules Creek site include:

  1. Spotted Harrier
  2. Little Eagle
  3. Square-tailed Kite
  4. Brown Treecreeper
  5. Varied Sittella
  6. Black-necked Stork
  7. Hooded Robin
  8. Black-chinned Honeyeater
  9. Painted Honeyeater
  10. Turquoise Parrot
  11. Little Lorikeet
  12. Barking Owl
  13. Masked Owl
  14. Grey-crowned Babbler
  15. Speckled Warbler
  16. Diamond Firetail Finch
  17. Large-eared Pied Bat
  18. Little Pied Bat
  19. Eastern Bent-wing Bat
  20. Eastern Cave Bat
  21. Yellow-bellied Sheathtail Bat
  22. Corben’s Long-eared Bat
  23. Squirrel Glider
  24. Koala
  25. Pale-headed Snake
  26. Pomaderris queenslandica (Threatened Plant)
  27. Pultenaea setulosa (Threatened Plant)
  28. Tylophora linearis (Threatened Plant)
  29. Satin Flycatcher (Migratory Species)
  30. White-throated Needletail (Migratory Species)
  31. Rainbow Bee-eater (Migratory Species)

A symbol of hope
For the activists stopping the Maules Creek coal mine, the little threatened bats of the region have become an iconic symbol of the struggle against coal mining. On 18 February 2014,  two activists dressed in bat costumes suspended themselves 30-metres above the ground, temporarily halting operation of the coal loader at Boggabri Coal Mine.


Photo: Courtesy

Now is the time for the Environment Minister to acknowledge the value of these rare and threatened species that are located in the way of these coal developments at Maules Creek and the proposed Carmichael coal mine.. The short term economic gain, which is not certain, is worth nothing when compared to the permanent loss to Australia’s biodiversity.

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  • andi

    I am surprised that no one has commented to date. Give these poor animals and the plants that are associated with them another 20 years with global warming, the present rate of habitat destruction and my photographs will be worth a fortune. Pity because the cameras will be updated to take better photographs but the plants and animals won’t be around to shoot any more.