19 August, 2013

Let's stop playing possum

The Age (editorial), August 19, 2013

The Gymnobelideus leadbeateri, or Leadbeater's possum, is a small and precious creature that has been this state's animal emblem for the past 42 years. The trouble is, there are so few Leadbeater's possums left that their emblematic form may soon be the only way left to see them.

According to a state government-commissioned report obtained by The Age last week, the species has insufficient forest habitat to ensure its long-term survival. This follows the loss in the Black Saturday bushfires of about 45 per cent of the Leadbeater's' permanent central highlands reserve, which is also a primary logging area. Also under threat is another state emblem, the helmeted honeyeater, whose numbers in the wild have fallen to as low as 60.

Another report, by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council, recommends establishing a 3000-hectare conservation area on Melbourne's eastern fringe. This would resolve only part of a far wider problem: with so many species threatened with extinction, which can or should be saved? This requires governments to start consulting animal, environment and development groups. In a federal election campaign woefully short on environmental policies from the two main parties, this could be a good time to start that dialogue.

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