The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has submitted a nomination to the Federal Government for a review of the status of the Victorian Leadbeater’s Possum, as new evidence shows it is more numerous and occupies a wider habitat range than previously understood.
The Federal Government listed the Leadbeater’s Possum as ‘critically endangered’ in 2015 following the 2009 Victorian bushfires, which were thought to have destroyed around one third of the possum’s suitable habitat.
AFPA CEO Ross Hampton said over the past three years new evidence that has emerged that indicates the possum is more resilient, adaptable and populous than previously thought. As at 1 May 2017, there are 603 known colonies identified, 450 of which have been identified since 2014. Possum colonies are being found in areas they were thought not to inhabit, including regrowth in forest burnt in the 2009 fires, and the trial of nest boxes and artificial hollows has also proven very successful.
“While AFPA strongly supports the ongoing actions seeking to secure the long-term survival of the Leadbeater’s Possum, and that every attempt is made to ensure the ongoing viability of our sustainable forestry practices, it is important that all decisions are informed by the best available conservation advice,” Mr Hampton said.
“On that basis, AFPA has submitted a nomination under the statutory process for a reassessment of the Leadbeater’s Possum’s ‘critically endangered’ listing. Importantly, this is not something the Minister can unilaterally do. The legislation clearly sets out the independent process, and it is appropriate that the same processes evaluate the new evidence.”
Significantly, there has never been a reliable population count for the Leadbeater’s Possum, despite the Commonwealth’s draft National Recovery Plan for the possum last year recommending “further investigations should be undertaken to provide a robust and reliable estimate of current total population size”. However, a comprehensive population study has still not occurred.
“The new evidence brings into question the need for some of the restrictions imposed on the forestry industry by the former Victorian Liberal Government, particularly the 12.5 hectare exclusion zone being enforced around every new colony sighting.
“It also underscores the need for a comprehensive population study that examines all potential habitat, which is why we have also asked the Federal Government work with the Victorian Government to ensure the scientific work is done to produce an accurate picture of the possum’s population and range. This will not only provide a better understanding of the Possum’s status, but also inform a whole-of-landscape approach to the conservation of this marsupial alongside a sustainable forestry industry.”