Update 1: Australian sandalwood conservation

Essentially the same letter as the one to the Federal Threatened Species Scientific Committee, but this time to the WA Threatened Species Scientific Committee:

Dr Andrew Burbidge
Threatened Species Scientific Committee
Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions


Dear Dr Burbridge,

Re: Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum)

I write to you as a former Senior Policy Adviser for the Federal Member for Mayo, Ms Rebekha Sharkie MP, and with a keen interest in environmental issues. Thank you in advance for your consideration of my correspondence.

Specifically, I am writing out of interest and concern regarding the status of Australian sandalwood, noting that it does not appear on the current Federal EPBC Act List of Threatened Flora[1], nor on the Western Australian Threatened and Priority Flora List[2].

According to research published last week by academics from Charles Sturt University and Curtin University, “[a]cross its entire range in Australia’s western and southern rangelands, Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum [R.Br.] A.DC.) is on a path towards ‘extinction in the wild’––the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s penultimate category of conservation risk.[3]

According to a related article from The Conversation by the same authors, they estimate that “175 years of commercial harvesting may have decreased the population of wild sandalwood by as much as 90%”, and conclude that “It’s time to list sandalwood as a threatened species nationally, and start harvesting only from plantations to give these wild, centuries-old trees a fighting chance at survival.[4]

May I kindly inquire, will the Committee undertake a review of the Western Australian sandalwood listing to ascertain whether it should be placed on the Western Australian Threatened and Priority Flora List (or other relevant list), and if so, when, and if not, why not?

Further, what conservation efforts are the Western Australian Government taking to protect and conserve remaining sandalwood trees in the wild?

Thank you again for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Cornish

15 / 10 / 2021

[1] See: https://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicthreatenedlist.pl?wanted=flora

[2] See: https://www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/plants-and-animals/threatened-species-and-communities/threatened-plants

[3] McLellan R. C., Dixon K., Watson D. M. (2021) Prolific or precarious: a review of the status of Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicatum [R.Br.] A.DC., Santalaceae). The Rangeland Journal; see: https://www.publish.csiro.au/rj/RJ21017

[4] See: Kingsley Dixon, Richard McLellan, and David M Watson, ‘Loved to death: Australian sandalwood is facing extinction in the wild’, The Conversation, 7 October 2021; https://theconversation.com/loved-to-death-australian-sandalwood-is-facing-extinction-in-the-wild-167281