It was great to get up into the forests in
Camberville behind Melbourne's water catchments as part of the Leadbeater's
Possum Awareness Week. Leadbeater’s Possum is
Victoria’s State Faunal emblem. An endangered species with both State and
National Recovery Programs in place. Endemic to Victoria, they exist nowhere
else but the Central Highlands forests, Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve
and alpine areas between Lake Mountain & Mt. Baw Baw.
|Pam Miskin, President of the Friends of Leadbeaters Possum,|
Eric Wilkinson who rediscovered the species in 1961 and
Cr Samantha Dunn, keen to continue to highlight the plight of our
state emblem, the Leadbeater's Possum.
|Dave Blair assists Prof David Lindenmayer with his|
research work in the Central Highlands forests.
of Leadbeater's Possum organised a walk and talk led by David Blair, scientific researcher for Professor David Lindenmayer,
world expert on Leadbeater's Possum.
|Eric Wilkinson has many a tale to tell about rediscovering|
Leadbeater's Possum, including the challenges of
photographing his discovery with old bulb flash technology.
It was wonderful to hear from Eric Wilkinson, who rediscovered
the possum in on the 3rd April, 1961. Eric retold his tales of exploring the
region in his Hillman Minx as a 22 year old and his amazement that he had seen
a Leadbeater's Possum, at the time, thought to have been extinct.
David Blair led the group on a walk through both intact, burnt
and severely burned forests and explained the importance of large old trees to
this species and the many threats to this species including fire and logging.
|People came from near and far to learn more about|
the Central Highlands forests, home to Leadbeater's Possum.
Population estimates for
Leadbeater's Possum prior to the 2009 bushfires were around 2,000-2,500
individuals, post-fire estimates are at around 800. Approximately 40-50% of
their prime habitat was lost in the fires whilst what is left is often logged,
the legislation in place to protect the species, weak, currently being
contested in the MyEnvironment v VicForests Supreme
Even as part of his judgement Justice
Robert Osborn said, "MyEnvironment has demonstrated a strong case for the
overall review of the adequacy of the reserve system intended to protect LBP
habitat within the Central Highlands Forest Management Area. The 
bushfires have materially changed the circumstances in which the existing
system was planned and implemented and there is, on the evidence, an urgent
need to review it".
The future of Leadbeater's Possum
is dire, a recent article
in New Matilda highlights the proposed watering down of legislation to protect
this species, the Victorian State government has since backed away from these
changes, highlighted in a story in today's Age.
September last year, Prof David Lindenmayer resigned from the Leadbeater's
Recovery Team in protest over policies which he said was managing the species
into extinction. At the time Prof Lindenmayer said he could no longer work with
"the most environmentally bankrupt administration". You can read more
about it in this Age article.
In the state of Victoria
Leadbeater’s Possum is listed under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act
1988 as threatened.
Leadbeater’s Possum is listed under the Environment Protection &
Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 as endangered.
The IUCN (International
Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Animals 1994 lists
Leadbeater’s Possum as endangered.
Logging of the Mountain
Ash forests in the Central Highlands for woodchips (paper production) has
resulted in the loss of vast areas of Leadbeater’s Possum habitat. Prof
Lindenmayer says our forests are being overcut,
so there'll be no habitat left for Leadbeater's Possum into the future.
The fragmentation of
suitable habitat by timber harvesting causes isolated small populations of
animals, who are then unable to reach other colonies for breeding.
Other events, such as
bushfires, disease, drought (climate change) and collapsing old habitat trees
are also threatening processes for Leadbeater’s Possum.
It is a
crisis and we have to ask ourselves as Victorians, do we accept watching on as
this species, our state emblem, teeters on the brink of extinction.
like to help Friends of Leadbeater's Possum in their efforts you can find out
more about them here. My
congratulations to the group, it was sobering to learn more about the perilous
situation Leadbeater's Possum are in and I'll be doing my utmost to continue to
highlight their plight.
Labels: biodiversity, central highlands, cr samantha dunn, friends of, leadbeaters possum, logging