© 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved.
Australia’s mammal fauna requires a strategic
and enhanced network of predator-free havens
To the Editor — Introduced cats (Felis catus)
and European red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
have caused the precipitous decline and
extinction of many native mammal species
in Australia1. Many surviving species now
persist in the wild only on predator-free
islands and in small natural refugia where
introduced predators are at low density.
These natural refugia have inspired the
creation of ‘safe havens’: areas where
populations of imperilled mammals can be
protected from introduced predators, either
on offshore islands, or by predator-proof
fences on the mainland2.
The creation of safe havens
revolutionized Australian mammal
conservation in the late twentieth century.
The number of these havens has increased
rapidly over the past 30 years (Fig. 1);
there are now 17 fenced areas (with a
further seven under construction) as
well as 22 islands on which introduced
predators have been eradicated and where
populations of native mammals have been
translocated and established. Introduced
predator eradications are currently
planned for five more large Australian
islands. These havens have improved the
population status and probably prevented
the extinction of some of Australia’s most
imperilled mammal species, mostly species
of arid and semi-arid distribution, and
larger body size. The network currently
protects 38 mammal taxa regarded
as highly or extremely susceptible to
predation from introduced predators.
Most havens have been created
by governments, non-government
organizations and private landholders
acting largely independently of each
other. Under a decentralized governance
structure, and without an explicitly unified
objective, new havens risk being established
inefficiently, as seen in the early growth of
protected area networks3,4. For example,
although the 11 havens created over the
past seven years increased protection for
16 predator-susceptible taxa, these were
already represented in the haven network
and no unrepresented taxa were added to
the network (Fig. 1). Twenty-nine predator-
susceptible taxa remain unrepresented in the
haven network. If a primary conservation
objective is to ensure comprehensive
protection for all at-risk species, current
expansion is performing poorly.
If national scale objectives such as
adequate representation of all predator-
susceptible taxa in havens are to be met
efficiently, new havens need to address
representation gaps in the existing network.
Systematic conservation prioritization
methods5 can help to identify the best
locations for new havens, and inform
strategies for determining the order in which
taxa are added to the network. However,
successful application of these tools requires
conservation action to be coordinated and
communicated among the conservation
actors who contribute to the haven network.
This will be difficult to achieve because
the actors are diverse and employ different
models to fund conservation actions6.
Ultimately, the success of the haven network
Safe haven creation date
Taxa protected (%)
Number of safe havens
Fig. 1 | Increase in species representation under haven network expansion. a, Representation of predator-
susceptible taxa in havens compared with growth in havens since 1990. Black line, percentage of taxa
protected by havens over time for a national target of 67 predator-susceptible taxa; blue line, number of
safe havens over time. The pink band indicates the 11 havens created over the past seven years, which have
only provided coverage for previously represented species. b, A greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis). Bilbies
have been a primary focus for Australian havens. Credit: b, Dave Watts/Alamy Stock Photo.
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© 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved. © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved.
will be judged by its capacity to sustain all
predator-susceptible taxa until eradication
of introduced predators on landscape or
national scales becomes viable, allowing
re-introduction outside havens. This
goal is achievable if decisions are informed
by a coordinated national strategy
supported by state-of-the-art conservation
planning approaches. ❐
Jeremy Ringma1,2,3*, Sarah Legge2,4,
John Woinarski5, Jim Radford6,
Brendan Wintle7 and Michael Bode8
1School of Biological Sciences, e University of
Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley,
Western Australia 6009, Australia. 2Centre for
Biodiversity and Conservation Science, University
of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072,
Australia. 3Department of Natural Resources and
Environmental Management, e University of
Hawai‘i, Manoa, HI 96822, USA. 4Fenner School
of Environment and Society, e Australian
National University, Canberra, Australian Capital
Territory 2601, Australia. 5Research Institute for
the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin
University, Casuarina, Northern Territory 0909,
Australia. 6Research Centre for Future Landscapes,
School of Life Sciences, La Trobe University,
Victoria 3083, Australia. 7University of Melbourne,
Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia. 8ARC Centre
of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook
University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia.
Published: xx xx xxxx
1. Woinarksi, J. e Action Plan for Australian Mammals
(CSIRO, Collingwood, 2012).
2. Haywards, M. & Somers, M. (eds) Fencing for Conservation:
Restriction of Evolutionary Potential or a Riposte to reatening
Processes? (Springer, New York, 2012).
3. Pressey, R. & Madeleine, B. Conserv. Biol. 22,
4. Ringma, J. et al. Conserv. Biol. 31, 1029–1038 (2017).
5. Margules, C. & Pressey, R. Nature 405, 243–253 (2000).
6. Iacona, G., Bode, M. & Armsworth, P. Conserv. Biol. 30,
This research was supported by the Australian
government’s National Environmental Science
Program, through the Threatened Species
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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