Searching for forest fairies
Saving our Leadbeater’s Possum
One night when I was a young girl, I was lucky enough to see some forest fairies. My family and I were out in the Victorian bush, it was just after dusk, cold and dark, when out of the trees appeared a family of forest fairies – also known as the Leadbeater’s Possum.
The Leadbeater’s Possum is a small and speedy marsupial the size of your palm. They live in the forest not far from Melbourne, where they move through the trees at night feeding on insects and necter. Then during the day the Leadbeater’s Possum sleeps in the hollow of a tree with their family.
The Leadbeater’s Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri) lives in two main population groups in the Central Highlands region and Victorian lowlands region – they are our state emblem.
The Leadbeater’s Possum doesn’t live anywhere else in the world, only in Victoria!
However, the Leadbeater’s Possim is endangered. They are threatened because they’re losing their home.
Hollow-bearing trees are important for the Leadbeater’s Possum to build a nest to stay safe and warm. It takes 150 years for the hollows to develop and we’re losing these old growth trees to bushfires and logging faster than they can grow.
The Victorian bushfires are burning Montane Ash forests where the Leadbeater’s Possum live. The 2009 Black Saturday bushfire burnt 45% of high-quality Leadbeater’s Possum habitat in the permanent reserve system. The Black Saturday fires burned through Lake Mountain Plateau at a high intensity, where before the fires an estimated 100 – 300 Leadbeater’s Possum lived, and after the fires only 6 had survived.
The Victorian logging and timber harvesting are a major disturbance to ash-type eucalypt forests in the Central Highlands where the Leaderbeater’s Possum lives. The widespread intensive, short-rotation and clear-felling operations are destroying the Leadbeater’s habitat and fragmenting their populations.
We can see the Leadbeater’s Possum as an example of the devastating changes that are happening in our Victorian ecosystems.
What can we do:
Setting aside protected areas is a main way to prevent biodiversity loss – and the loss of the Leadbeater’s Possum. The Great Forest National Park is a Victorian initiate proposing to add 355 000 hectares of parks and protected areas in the Central Highlands. This would add conservation, wave saving, climate change and tourism benefits to our state.
Preventing our forests being made into low-grade paper products is a main way to conserve Leadbeater’s Possum habitat. Choosing Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) products will ensure they are sustainably harvested to protect our forests and species habitats.
We can all be involved in saving the forest fairies for the next generation of Victorian children.