A total of about 38,000 km², 11 percent of the land area in Southwest Australia, is under some form of official protection, virtually all of it in IUCN categories I to IV. Many reserves, however, are too small to adequately protect biological resources, and many ecosystem types are not well represented in the protected area system. Typically, the region's reserves represent land that was unsuitable for farming in the early days of settlement. Arable lands are almost exclusively privately owned, and a number of rare species are found only on these private lands.
Southwest Australia represents one of the best opportunities for long-term conservation among the hotspots because of its relatively low population density. However, immediate action is necessary to ensure the survival of the region's unique and highly threatened flora and fauna. In addition to maintaining the integrity of existing protected areas, the current network should be expanded through the creation of new reserves from private and public lands to represent species and ecosystems not yet protected.
There are a number of conservation programs and projects currently operating in Southwest Australia. The Western Shield Program, run by the Department of Conservation and Land Management, is working to bring at least 13 native fauna species back from the brink of extinction by controlling introduced predators, the fox and feral cat. The main weapon in the fight against these predators is the use of the naturally occurring poison 1080, found in native plants called gastrolobiums or 'poison peas'. While the native animals have evolved with these plants and have a high tolerance to the poison, introduced animals do not.
Project Eden is the arid scientific conservation component of Western Shield. This project uses innovative techniques to eradicate feral herbivores and predators and rejuvenate 105,000 hectares of arid zone habitat on Peron Peninsula at Shark Bay for threatened native fauna, and, to promote their reintroduction into the area.
A project focused on the ecology, abundance and predator dynamics of threatened Shark Bay mammals, has been run by the Sustainable Ecosystems program of CSIRO, the Australian national research agency, in partnership with a local salt mining community at Useless Loop for the past 16 years. This work has studied in detail the life cycle of some of Australia’s most threatened animals on Bernier and Dorre Islands and has reintroduced the western barred bandicoot and burrowing bettong, two species extirpated on the Australian mainland, to Heirisson Prong.
Other conservation projects in Southwest Australia include community-based recovery programs for the threatened Carnaby's black-cockatoo, western ground parrot, dibbler, noisy scrub-bird and malleefowl. These involve organizations such as Birds Australia, WWF, CSIRO, Department of Conservation and Land Management and local Landcare groups.