Leadbeater’s Possum – Gymnobelideus leadbeateri
If you asked me a little over 12 months ago if I would be seeing a the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum anytime soon I would have been disbelieving or at best have hoped to have had a quick glimpse as one scuttled from a stag on a stag watch. Now 12 months down the track I have been fortunate to have a number of close encounters over a half dozen or more nights with this species in the largely unprotected forests of the Tarago and Yarra Ranges State Forests. Thanks to the excellent techniques passed on by Rohan Clarke of http://www.wildlifeimages.com.au/ it is now a disappointment when Leadbeater’s Possum cannot be found in an area of suitable habitat. This may sound very promising but unfortunately the areas of remaining suitable habitat are very small and mostly in State Forest that is subject to logging. Fortunately there is an initiative that areas with confirmed Leadbeater’s Possum colonies receive a 200m buffer zone from logging if reported to the department (DELWP) Currently some 79 such buffer zones have been created but more are needed which is great incentive to get out there and find some possums. Science from Prof David Lindenmayer’s team from the ANU indicates that 200m is insufficient and a 1km buffer would be more appropriate and hopefully the upcoming revised Recovery Plan will support this.
If you want to go looking for Leadbeater’s Possum yourself then I can recommend the forests around Powelltown – look particularly for areas with decaying Mountain Ash stags with access to a mixed undergrowth of wattles in particular silver and hickory wattle. They can sometimes be found quite a distance from the stags in areas of regrowth but still require the stags and hollows for roosting. They are almost squirrel like in their movements and can easily move from tree to tree with leaps of several meters no problem. This movement behaviour is diagnostic and is nothing like the superficially similar Sugar Glider. The eyeshine is also much duller than a Sugar Glider but distinctive. Listen also for their soft drumming communication calls. They do respond well to an imitation of their alarm call.
The only way to protect this species from extinction is via the cessation of logging in the Central Highlands and the establishment of a Great Forest Park with appropriate management – GFNP
The Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum – http://leadbeaters.org.au/ has a number of volunteer opportunities including stag watches.
Draft National Recovery Plan released 19/02/2016 – LINK