Prince Philip’s Environmental Activism Saved a Whole Species from Extinction

The late Duke helped ensure that a rare Australian marsupial lives on today.

prince philip environmental
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s been heartening to see the royal family use their vast resources to call attention to the fight against climate change. Between Prince William’s Earthshot Prize, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s net-zero carbon pledge, and Prince Charles’s long history of outspoken environmental activism, the use of their platforms for such an important cause is a hopeful sign. Really, though, they’re following in the well-trod footsteps of noted nature-lover Prince Philip. 

The Duke of Edinburgh, who passed away last April at the age of 99, was a long-time environmentalist, and was calling attention to conservation and biodiversity before it was a constant news item. Now, it seems that activism made him responsible for saving an entire species. 

The story of the Australian rodent known as the Gilbert’s potoroo—considered the world’s rarest marsupial and kind of a mix of a rat and a kangaroo (but cute!)—is fascinating. It was once thought to have gone extinct, because it vanished in the 1870s and wasn’t seen for years. But according to the Telegraph, Prince Philip’s lobbying in the 1960s to save a bird species that lived in an area of remote Australian bushland called Two Peoples Bay, which had been flagged for destruction to make way for a new housing development, inadvertently saved the potoroo as well. 

prince philip environmental

The surprisingly cute potoroo. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In 1994, nearly 30 years after the land received designated protection status, a scientist discovered that the disappearing potoroo actually had a surviving population in the area. Prince Philip’s successful fight to save the habitat allowed the potoroo’s population to grow to its current number of nearly 100 members, and researchers are expressing their gratitude for the Duke’s passionate conservation advocacy. “Prince Philip, in helping to save Two Peoples Bay, enabled Gilbert’s Potoroo to survive undetected — and thought extinct — until its rediscovery in 1994,” Dr. Jackie Courtenay, a conservation biologist in the Gilbert’s Potoroo Action Group, told the Telegraph.

This story is a great reminder that protecting the environment can have benefits far beyond just the obvious, and that advocacy can really make a difference.