For example, we found that the constituency with the most endangered species is Durack in Western Australia, currently held by Melissa Price of the Liberal Party. Some 61 threatened animals and 198 threatened plants live or lived within its boundaries, such as the Numbat, Gouldian finch and the western subterranean orchid.
Our goal is to help users engage with their elected representatives and put species at risk on the political agenda this election and beyond. There is an urgent need to convince federal politicians to act, because they hold the keys to saving these species. So what can they do to help their lot?
Endangered species in your neighborhood
Our new app, called “Threatened Australians”, uses federal government data to make you discover the endangered species living in your neighborhood.
By entering a postcode, users can find out what the species looks like, where it is (in relation to its constituency), and what threatens it. Importantly, users can learn more about their outgoing elected representative and the democratic actions that are helping to make a difference.
Read more: Failure: our report card on the government’s handling of Australia’s extinction crisis
For example, entering the postcode 2060 – the seat of North Sydney, currently held by Trent Zimmerman of the Liberal Party – tells us that there are 23 endangered animals and 14 endangered plants living or living there.
We have also gathered data dividing the number of endangered species that live or lived in each party’s constituencies, as shown in the table below. The seats held by Labor are home to 775 of the more than 1,800 endangered species, while the seats held by the Liberals have 1,168.
A seriously overlooked problem
The good news is that we know how to avoid the extinction crisis. Countless peer-reviewed reports and studies have detailed why the crisis is happeningincluding a major independent review of Australian environmental laws which outlined the measures needed federal reforms to change this trajectory.
The bad news is that these sweeping reforms, like almost all previous calls to action on the endangered species crisis, have been largely ignored.
Forecasts show the situation will get much worse for endangered species over the next two decades if nothing changes.
The health of the environment consistently ranks among the main problems Australians worry aboutand nature tourists in Australia spend over $23 billion a year.
Read more: Just ten MPs represent more than 600 endangered species in their constituency
So how can we address this mismatch of widespread public desire for environmental action while political candidates focus on other issues?
What can local MPs actually do about it?
For change to happen, communities must effectively convince elected officials to act. There are a few ways they can use their democratic powers to make a difference.
Federal MPs often champion and champion important issues such as the development of new hospitals, schools, and parking lots in their constituency. By speaking out and advocating for their constituency in parliament and with the media, they can garner support, such as funding and reform, to bring change to their constituency.
Local MPs can help protect endangered species by lobbying and voting for improved policy.
Say, for example, that legislation to approve a new mine was before parliament, and the development overlapped with the habitat of an endangered animal. If the protection of a certain plant or animal was on the MPs’ agenda through the efforts of their community, this would help determine whether the MP votes for such legislation.
Read more: Frozen sperm and assisted reproduction: it’s time to pull out all the stops to save the endangered koala
It also has wider applications. Making the endangered species crisis a priority for an MP would determine how far they would go for conservation in their constituency and across Australia.
Endangered species desperately need funding required next to the appropriate political and legislative reform. Current policies are responsible for the threats that cause many species to become endangered.
Our app can help users to interact with the current MP in their constituency with one click, as it helps users write an email to them. It’s time for federal representatives to be asked about their policies on endangered species and what they plan to do for them in their backyards.
While climate change has for decades been the subject of fierce debate in Australia’s parliament, endangered species can be a cause of unity across political divides.
We need an honest and urgent dialogue between local communities and their representatives about how to address the challenge these species face and what each potential candidate intends to do about it.
Read more: 1.7 million foxes, 300 million native animals killed each year: We now know the damage caused by foxes