An independent and comprehensive study of the Leadbeater’s Possum population and range is urgently needed to close the significant scientific gaps surrounding the management of this species, the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) said today.

AFPA CEO Mr Ross Hampton said the Commonwealth’s two-year review of the Leadbeater Possum’s critically endangered status had produced encouraging new evidence that indicates the Leadbeater’s Possum population and range is much greater than was understood in 2015 when the Threatened Species Scientific Committee first recommended it be listed as ‘critically endangered’.

“However, despite the recent new evidence, a comprehensive population study across all land tenures has still not occurred, and consequently only 6 to 10 per cent of the Leadbeater Possum’s potential habitat in the Central Highlands has been surveyed,” Mr Hampton said.

“Environment Minister Sussan Ley’s decision today to retain the Possum’s critically endangered status should focus efforts on getting the best science to inform future conservation efforts, and that’s why we are calling on the Federal and Victorian Governments to ensure this comprehensive study finally happens.”

Mr Hampton said the review of the Possum’s listing had been worthwhile because it gave scientists time to gather new evidence which has significantly boosted our understanding of the Possum’s population and range, which are greater than previously thought. However, the review has also exposed just how little we know about the Possum’s actual population and range, and future habitat availability.

In the past 12 months scientists have documented Leadbeater’s Possum colonies as far as 15km outside their known habitat range, and they are being found in regrowth forest from the 2009 bushfires and in mixed-tree species forests that they were believed not to inhabit.

And, as of November 2018, there were 688 known Leadbeater’s Possum colonies identified, 527 of which have been identified since 2014, which scientists estimate could put their population at more than 10,000.

“A comprehensive survey will not only provide a more accurate understanding of the Possum’s status, but also inform a whole-of-landscape approach to the conservation of this important species,” Mr Hampton said.

“Until such a study is completed, releasing a final Recovery Plan based on the limited science available could compromise conservation efforts and adversely impact Victoria’s forest industries, which employ thousands of people across the state,” Mr Hampton concluded.

ENDS