After carefully considering advice from the independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee and submissions from experts, interested organisations and the wider community, I have decided to list the Leadbeater’s possum as a ‘critically endangered’ species.
The Threatened Species Scientific Committee’s recommendation was clear and unequivocal regarding the need to transfer the species from endangered to critically endangered.
This means Victoria’s faunal emblem will now receive the highest level of protection under national environment law.
Leadbeater’s possums have very specific habitat requirements in order for them to survive and flourish. Sadly, almost half of the possum’s ideal habitat – the old-growth mountain ash forest in the Central Highlands of Victoria – was burnt in the 2009 bushfires.
The challenges facing this iconic species are significant. It has undergone very severe population declines in recent decades with numbers having decreased by more than 80 per cent since the mid 1980s.
That is why we will be working closely with the Victorian Government to find a solution which will help save the possum for future generations.
First and foremost, I have already asked my Department to work with Victorian Government officials and commence a review and update of the Leadbeater’s possum draft Recovery Plan. This Plan must be finalised and acted upon.
The Australian Government is already taking significant action to protect threatened species. In 2014, we initiated a new national approach to saving our threatened species with the appointment of Australia’s first Threatened Species Commissioner. Since then, we have invested more than $76 million for practical science-based actions, to turn around species declines.
As an example, the Australian Government is supporting Zoos Victoria to grow habitat for lowland Leadbeater’s possum and helmeted honeyeater populations. Through funding under the 20 Million Tree Programme, the Government will help Zoos Victoria to plant 112,000 trees at Coranderrk Bushland Reserve which will provide breeding populations of these species with suitable habitat to help their recovery.
In addition, the Australian Government’s National Environment Science Programme Threatened Species Recovery Hub will be investing $30 million over the next six years in practical science and field work to test and explore options to tackle the threats to our native animals and plants.