Australia has laws that theoretically guarantee the protection of our native flora and fauna. Unfortunately, when other vested interests come into play these laws are often not effective. Such is the current fate of Victoria’s animal emblem, the Leadbeater’s Possum.
An Iconic Species
Originally thought to be extinct, the Leadbeater’s Possum was rediscovered in 1961 and being endemic to (existing only in) Victoria, it was an obvious choice for the state’s animal emblem 10 years later.
Like many Australian small mammals and birds, the Leadbeater’s Possum requires old trees (150 – 200 years old) that have had time to develop natural hollows, in which they live. This is one reason why environmental plantings are often not fully effective for a long time and need to be guaranteed for at least 100 years to function as effective habitat for many species. In logging and clearing old-growth forest, we make it extremely difficult try to offset the REAL cost of removing this habitat. Only a few restoration organisations operate under these principles, our charity and ecological footprint organisation BioR (http://bior.org.au/) being one of them.
Driving the Decline
Like many Australian animals and plants, land clearing leading to habitat loss, alongside large wildfire events has been the main driver of the Leadbeater’s Possum’s decline. There are now thought to be fewer than 1500 of these possums left in the wild, meaning this species is listed Federally as Endangered, though recent scientific advice has been to give the possum a Critically Endangered status.
Despite this, large-scale logging of their little-remaining old-growth habitat continues, primarily for the production of paper and transport pallets. Theoretically, the Federal Environment Minister has the power to stop these activities, but if State and Federal Governments have been involved in a Regional Forestry Agreement (RFA), logging activities become exempt from having to abide by Australia’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. What does this mean? Under such conditions, environmental law designed to protect our biodiversity breaks down and wilfully causing extinction become legal. How can we let this happen to a State’s faunal emblem?
So What Can We Do?
• Support organisations that are working to protect this species and replace habitat for other declining species:
o Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum (http://leadbeaters.org.au/)
o BioR (http://bior.org.au/)
• A proposal has been put to the Victorian Government to create the Great Forest National Park, which would protect not only the Leadbeater’s Possum but also the Critically Endangered Mountain Ash ecosystems of the Victorian Central Highlands. Vote for your local politicians who support this measure, or give them a call to make them aware that you support it.
• Only buy 100% post-consumer recycled printing and toilet paper.
Spread the word!