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Wombats Koala Possums Wallabies and Kangaroos: Diprotodontia - Conservation Status

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The arrival of Europeans and the animals they introduced (rabbits, red foxes, cats, sheep, cattle) significantly changed the habitats of some diprotodonts and put others in direct competition with these introduced animals for food. Hunting, clearing the land for farming, changing patterns of burning grassland, and economic development have put pressure on these animals, often forcing them into marginal habitats, reducing their range or fragmenting them into isolated populations.

MODERN DISCOVERIES

One might think that with our ability to go to every corner of the planet, all the marsupials in Australia and New Guinea would have been discovered. Imagine scientists' surprise and excitement in the 1980s when two new species of diprotodonts were discovered in Australia. Then, in the 1990s, four new diprotodonts were found in New Guinea. It is possible that in the twenty-first century, other adventurous scientists will find still more new species from this order.

About 25 percent of the species in this order are considered threatened or potentially in danger of extinction. Six species have gone extinct in recent years. However, three other species thought to be extinct have been found to be still alive, although considered Critically Endangered, facing an extremely high risk of extinction. The northern hairy-nosed wombat is also Critically Endangered, with possibly fewer than 100 individuals left in the wild. Its cousin, the southern hairy-nosed wombat, is Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction, because of its limited range. On the other hand, the koala, once threatened with extinction in 1920, has been the target of successful conservation (though in some areas, koalas are dying or being relocated because of overcrowding).

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Books:

Finney, Tim F. Mammals of New Guinea, 2nd ed. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.

Menkhorst, Frank. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia, 2nd ed. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

Web sites:

Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/ (accessed on June 30, 2004).

Marsupial Society of Australia. "Fact Sheets." http://www.marsupialsociety.org (accessed on June 30, 2004).

Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania. http://www.parks.tas.gov.au (accessed on June 30, 2004).

Queensland Government Environmental Protection Agency/Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. "Nature Conservation." http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/nature_conservation (accessed on June 30, 2004).

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