Australian animals at risk as environment worsens

STORY: [Tanya Plibersek, Australia Environment Minister] "We deserve to know that Australia has lost more mammal species to extinction than any other continent."

Australia has released a five-yearly environmental report card.

The government's Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek described its findings as shocking.

The State of the Environment Report says Australia has one of the worst rates of species decline among the world's richest countries.

The report says some animals such as the blue-tailed skink are now only known to exist in captivity.

Meanwhile the central rock-rat and Christmas Island flying fox are among mammals considered most at risk of extinction in the next 20 years.

The number of species added to the list of threatened species or in a higher category of risk grew on average by 8% from the previous report in 2016.

"It's right there on page one of the report. I quote, 'Overall the state and trend of the environment in Australia are poor and deteriorating. With abrupt changes in ecological systems being recorded in the past five years' and it's downhill from there."

The document comes after drought, bushfires, and floods ravaged the country over the past five years.

It said increasing temperatures, changing fire and rainfall trends, rising sea levels and ocean acidification were all having significant impacts that would persist.

Many of the country's most prized ecosystems, such as the Great Barrier Reef, are threatened by climate change and environmental extremes, the report said.

The report also said $1.2 billion is required each year to revive threatened species.

Scientists and environmentalist, like Michelle Ward from the World Wildlife Fund, said the report was a wake-up call for the government to strengthen nature laws.

"Australia is sleepwalking our way into an extinction crisis. For years we have known what species are threatened by, where species are in the landscape and what actions are needed to mitigate those threats, so it's very simple but yet, we've seen simply no action."

Plibersek said the government would develop new environmental legislation for 2023 after studying recommendations made by an independent review completed in January of the existing law.