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Extinct in the wild

The criteria for declaring a species as extinct in the wild are if:

  • there have been thorough searches conducted for the wildlife; and
  • the wildlife has not been seen in the wild over a period that is appropriate for the life cycle or form of the wildlife.

The Governor in Council may classify a species as extinct in the wild by amending the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 2006 (PDF) where the above criteria under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NCA) (PDF) have been met.

A species is extinct in the wild when it is known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population well outside the past range (that is, the species survives, reproduces and persists in an area where it did not naturally occur). A species is presumed as extinct in the wild when exhaustive surveys in known and/or expected habitat - at appropriate times throughout its historic range - have failed to record an individual. Surveys must be conducted over a timeframe appropriate to the species’ life cycle and life form.

Extinction is irreversible and occurs when a species or other group of organisms has no living representatives in the wild.

We are living in a time when large numbers of wild animals and plants are facing the threat of extinction, and will go extinct if these threats are not removed.

We know from the fossil records that more than 90 percent of all of the species that have ever lived are now extinct. These extinctions have occurred through natural processes such as competition between species, changing environments and climates and natural disasters. The extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago is even believed to be the result of a large asteroid hitting the earth and creating huge clouds of dust that blocked sunlight from reaching much of the earth. This in turn killed off the plants and caused a drop in temperature and changed climate patterns around the world.

Today most of the plants and animals at risk of extinction are threatened by human activities: habitat clearing, the introduction of species from other countries, pollution, population growth (too many people) and over-consumption of natural resources.

View a list of extinct in the wild animals and plants in Queensland.

How many species could become extinct?

One estimate states that between 50 and 100 species around the world are going extinct each day (Edward O. Wilson, 1992).

Related information

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Last reviewed
8 November 2016
Last updated
14 June 2011