Northern Australian biomes hold high biodiversity values within largely intact vegetation complexes, yet many species of mammals, and some other taxa, are endangered. Recently, six mammal species were added to the 20 or so already listed in the Australian endangered category. Current predictions suggest that nine species of mammal in northern Australia are in imminent danger of extinction within 20 years. We examine the robustness of the assumptions of status and trends in light of the low levels of monitoring of species and ecosystems across northern Australia, including monitoring the effects of management actions. The causes of the declines include a warming climate, pest species, changed fire regimes, grazing by introduced herbivores, and diseases, and work to help species and ecosystems recover is being conducted across the region. Indigenous custodians who work on the land have the potential and capacity to provide a significant human resource to tackle the challenge of species recovery. By working with non-Indigenous researchers and conservation managers, and with adequate support and incentives, many improvements in species’ downward trajectories could be made. We propose a strategy to establish a network of monitoring sites based on a pragmatic approach by prioritizing particular bioregions. The policies that determine research and monitoring investment need to be re-set and new and modified approaches need to be implemented urgently. The funding needs to be returned to levels that are adequate for the task. At present resourcing levels, species are likely to become extinct through an avoidable attrition process.