Even in wildlife reserves where millions are spent to shield fragile ecosystems, the shockwaves are being felt all the same. In Australia's two largest protected areas, Kakadu National Park and the Great Barrier Reef, biodiversity has been in steep decline, with some organisms suffering losses of up to 95 percent.
With 1,500 species under threat, money and manpower devoted to their conservation are stretched so thin as to be virtually feckless. Reallocating those resources toward specific species and ecosystems, experts suggest, may be the only way of saving them -- even if that mean effectively marking the rest for death.
But choosing which species live and which are allowed to go extinct requires accepting that the very existence of some organisms is more important than others.
"If you put in one corner a rare butterfly and in another corner a Tasmanian devil, I have to say as a conservation biologist, that the Tasmanian devil is more important -- it's a top predator, it's at the end of an evolutionary lineage, it's charismatic, it's a mammal (and) we can't afford to lose such a thing," says Bowman.