Canberra (Australia), November 26: A planned rocket launch facility in South Australia (SA) poses an extinction-level threat to an endangered bird species, conservationists have warned.
According to the Nature Conservation Society of SA, Southern Launch's proposed rocket facility on the Eyre Peninsula -- approximately 300 kilometers west of Adelaide -- is in a habitat critical to the long-term survival of a southern emu-wren subspecies.
As one of Australia's smallest native birds with a length of approximately six centimeters, the subspecies is listed as endangered under SA law and vulnerable federally.
After successful launches from its inland Koonibba Test Range, Southern Launch is now applying to build a permanent facility at Whalers Way at the tip of the Eyre Peninsula.
If approved, the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex will be used to launch up to 36 rockets carrying private customers' satellites every year.
The 1,200-hectare site was chosen in part because of the ability to launch rockets over the Great Australian Bight rather than land.
The project was announced in 2018 with state government approval but has faced a series of delays and is now being considered for approval by federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek.
The conservation society said more traffic, noise and an increased risk of bushfires pose an extinction-level threat to the emu-wren subspecies.
"There are so few of these left. At best 1,000 across previously known sites. It could be as few as 500. The Whalers Way estimate is possibly 100 pairs, 200 birds," Julia Peacock from the society said on Saturday.
"We're talking about a subspecies that's really threatened. What it needs is its habitat to be protected."