The Kritic

Leadbeater's Possum

In 1867 Europeans discovered the existence of a new species of possum. Named after John Leadbeater, a taxidermist at the Museum of Victoria, it was given the classification of Gymnobelideus leadbeateri and is the only species in the Gymnobelideus genus.

A lack of sightings during the period of 1909 until 1961 led to the presumption that it was extinct. That is until on April 3, 1961 Eric Wilkinson rediscovered their existence.

Leadbeater’s Possums are rarely seen: they are nocturnal, small (about 10 cm long and about 90 grams), fast-moving, and occupy the upper story of old growth mountain ash forests, some of the tallest forests in the world. They live in tree hollows anywhere from 6 to 30 metres above ground level. These hollows form in trees when they reach about 150 years of age. They have a home range territory of 10,000 to 20,000 square metres.

They require both large dead trees with hollows for housing and mature regrowth for food. They also require both of these to be replenished through the natural cycle of forest life.

Professor David LindenmayerProfessor David Lindenmayer (DSc. Ph.D Dip. Ed. BSc.), who completed a PhD in 1990 on ‘The Ecology and Habitat Requirements of Leadbeater’s Possum’, and has studied the possum and its habitat for 30 years has written to the Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke requesting the possum’s conservation status be upgraded urgently from endangered to critically endangered under federal bio diversity protection laws.

“Unless we move quickly, we’ll see this animal go extinct within 25 years. If governments do nothing, then Leadbeater’s possum is stuffed… We are quick to accuse other countries, like Indonesia, of clearing wildlife habitat, but we need to look at our own backyard first. What we are doing to our native forests and wildlife is just as bad” he said.

In a recent paper, Professor Lindenmayer warned Australia had already lost 99 per cent of its old-growth mountain ash forests, with “catastrophic implications” for bushfire control, water harvesting and wildlife conservation.

Whilst this story highlights just one species of fauna and its habitat, the impact on all habitats and inhabitants, whether through natural or anthropogenic causes, needs to be addressed to ensure the continued bio diversity of this planet.

I encourage all readers to contact Tony Burke who can be reached at Tony.Burke.MP@environment.gov.au to voice your support for Professor David Lindenmayer’s letter requesting the upgrade to the conservation status of the Leadbeater’s Possum.

The Kritic has sent an email to Mr Burke and will update this story with any response received from Mr Burke or his office.

References:

  1. Rosslyn Beeby article March 27, 2012 – Leadbeater’s possum faces ‘managed extinction’ without action
  2. Wikipedia article – Leadbeater’s Possum
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  1. […] The Kritic blog 27 March, 2012 I wrote about the Leadbeater’s possum. At the end of the blog I stated that I had emailed Tony […]

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