Bad news: The Greater Glider, Australia’s largest (and fluffiest) gliding possum is under threat of extinction.
Good news: It has recently been added to the threatened list of Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (FFGA)
After decades of decline and zero government interest or surveys, the clear evidence is that local extinctions of the Greater Glider are happening. It’s still in decline due to ongoing threats like clearfelling its habitat, planned burns and destruction of hollow-bearing trees that are essential for its survival. Like the Koala, the Greater Glider eats gum leaves and has a small home range. It won’t leave after its home area is cut down. The glider has an affinity for its known trees and hollows. It starves or is killed by predators once its forest or trees are destroyed.
It was nominated to be listed last year (2016) by local resident Rena Gabarov and approved in mid-April by the government’s Scientific Advisory Committee. The Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio has until about mid-May to decide to accept or reject its nomination. It would be a brave minister to reject all the evidence and favour clearfelling its valuable habitat instead.
Although it may take a while to have a plan drawn up for its protection measures, the Precautionary Principle cited in the Code of Forest Practices and the East Gippsland Forest Management Plan, should apply. This was tested in EEG vs VicForests in the 2010 Brown Mountain case.
Citizen Scientists from GECO have been finding gliders in many of the richer and older forests of East Gippsland, but the trigger point for their protection is over 10 identified per km (or over 2 per ha or 15 per hour) of spotlighting. Valuable forest has been lost when only 8 or 9 have been found, which is still a healthy population. Gliders also indicate that other rare species are likely to be supported by these forests as well, such as rare forest owls and ground marsupials like potoroos or bandicoots, quolls and species which need high nutrient sites and thick, diverse understorey.
Despite being listed Federally under the EPBC Act (May 2016), the legal exemption from commonwealth laws that was granted under the Regional Forest Agreements in 1997, means only the state can impose protections for threatened forest species like the Glider.
In its recommendation to list the species, the SAC wrote that it:
“…understands that the currently known threats to Greater Glider are occurring in all areas of its range. Direct evidence of declines in Victoria can be seen in two broad areas: Central Highlands and East Gippsland. The following specific threats to the greater glider are current and are expected to operate at a level in the future which could lead to the extinction of the species in the long term.”
It mentions threats from logging, bushfires, government planned burns, climate change and drought, hyper-predation and habitat fragmentation.
It’s listing after so many years of decline is welcome. We now need to pressure the Minister to enact protection measures which will be effective. These need to prioritise the Glider above a month’s supply of logs for a sawmill or the Eden woodchip pile.