Here is a recent headline from an ABC online article, a reputable publicly funded media source
Bush stone-curlews popping up in suburbs as bird once extinct in ACT makes a comeback
Nice you might think given that headlines containing good news are like threatened species themselves, rare and at risk of being lost forever.
Here is the problem.
The IUCN lists the conservation status of the Bush stone-curlew as “least concern”. In other words, its not under any immediate threat of extinction in the wild.
In fact, the species has a broad habitat preference throughout Australia pitching up in open forest, eucalyptus woodland, rainforest edges, grassy plains, arid scrubland and along inland watercourses across much of the vast continent. It is a common species in the cities of Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville and is abundant in the tropical and subtropical north. In other words, it’s not a rare species at all.
I’m told there are pubs up north where you can sup on a stubbie alongside a foraging stone-curlew.
To use the word extinction, the termination of a lineage, where the moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, is a lie.
This bird is not extinct.
Placing a geographic limit so as to use the term is disingenuous. Strippers are extinct in the Vatican is about as crazy a statement.
So is this fake news?
I think it is. The bird species is not actually extinct. It’s not even at risk unless you specify a discrete subset of its natural range. And when we learn that the Canberra specimens were almost certainly taking a wander from a nearby reserve artificially stocked with a few pairs to “reintroduce” them to the local scene, then the implicit hope in the story takes a huge dive.
I know that there are feeds to feed in this modern age of lightning fast news cycles. And I also know that there are good reasons for at least trying to be upbeat when, for the conservation minded, the world appears to be crashing down. But, like cricketers crossing the line, there are consequences for cheating on the truth. In the end people do not respect you, they dismiss everything you say even when you are actually being honest.
So my call to myself, and everyone who is in the business of information, let’s be as honest and as truthful as we possibly can and leave the spin alone when it comes to the facts.
This is easy to say and not at all easy to do but we all have to try.