Protecting the Leadbeater’s Possum
The endangered Leadbeater's Possum is Victoria’s faunal emblem. The species is found only in Victoria, and lives primarily in the ash forests and sub-alpine woodlands of Victoria's central highlands, with a small lowland population to the east of Melbourne.
In 2013, the independent Leadbeater's Possum Advisory Group made recommendations to support the recovery of the possum, while maintaining a sustainable timber industry.
The Victorian Government continues to implement the Group’s recommendations and undertakes additional measures to identify and protect Leadbeater's Possum colonies.
Community assistance to protect the Leadbeater's Possum
Leadbeater's Possum survey kit
Three Leadbeater's Possum survey kits are available for loan to community groups and individuals searching for new colonies.
Anyone interested in loaning the equipment is encouraged to attend a training session in Powelltown covering operation of the equipment, site selection, recognised survey techniques and submission of new records.
Register your interest in a training session by emailing LBP@delwp.vic.gov.au
Leadbeater's Possum survey standard
A new Leadbeater's Possum survey standard has been developed to detail the acceptable methods to determine the presence or absence of the possum.
This standard is being applied in targeted surveys to identify new colonies. It also specifies the evidence required from the community when reporting new possum colonies and the process for verification of these records.
Night vision of Leadbeater's Possum
Footage of Leadbeater's Possum using an artificial tree hollow constructed by arborists.
Leadbeater's Possum interactive map
A range of Leadbeater's Possum spatial information is now available via the Leadbeater's Possum Interactive Map. This user-friendly tool provides public access to the most up-to-date Leadbeater's Possum spatial information, including the location of:
- Leadbeater's Possum colonies, including pre-existing colony records (since 1998), new colonies identified through targeted surveys and colonies verified from community reports, and their 200 metre radius Special Protection Zones
- areas where there is a >65% modelled probability of occupancy by Leadbeater's Possums
- areas where DELWP has undertaken targeted surveys to identify up to 200 new colonies (from February 2015).
Information can be viewed for the Central Highlands overall, for each of the 21 Leadbeater's Management Units within the Central Highlands, or at a more localised level on maps that also provide contextual information such as roads and streams.
The mapping tool will be updated regularly as new data is incorporated into out data bases.
(Map last updated on 24 November 2017)
News and publications
Progress for the Leadbeater's Possum Recovery Efforts
The Victorian Government released the Supporting the Recovery of the Leadbeater's Possum: Progress Report December 2016 to provide an update on the Recovery Program of the state's 'critically endangered' faunal emblem.
The report details a number of Leadbeater's Possum recovery milestones delivered over the past two years and since the previous progress report was released in October 2015.
In June 2016, collaborative efforts to protect Leadbeater's Possum between government, agencies and the community reached a milestone with 200 new colonies detected in the state forests of the Central Highlands since the start of the program in 2014.
The new colonies were found through direct input from members of the public via their own survey work. This in turn has resulted in a number of verified communities being identified, including a further 70 records from the community between July and September 2016. Other records have been sourced from DELWP targeted surveys, VicForests pre-harvest surveys and reports submitted by Parks Victoria and Zoos Victoria.
All new Leadbeater's Possum colonies located in state forests have been protected by a 200 metre radius (12.6 hectare) timber harvesting exclusion zone, resulting in an additional 2, 983 hectares reserved to protect Leadbeater's Possums since the program commenced.
Review of 200 metre timber harvesting exclusion zones
A key recommendation from the 2014 Leadbeater's Possum Advisory Group report was the establishment of 200 metre radius timber harvesting exclusion zones around all existing (post-1998) and new, verified records of Leadbeater's Possums in State forest in the Central Highlands.
The Leadbeater's Possum Advisory Group also recommended that a review be undertaken on the effectiveness of this action to support the recovery of Leadbeater's Possum, while also maintaining a sustainable timber industry. The review was recommended to commence after completing two years of surveying, or once 200 new colonies were located in State forest. In June 2016, both of these milestones were met.
The review of the protection measures for Victoria’s iconic Leadbeater’s possum has been completed.
The review documented the extent of improved protection for Leadbeater's Possum colonies from the 200 metre exclusion zone rule. It assessed the effectiveness of this additional protection in supporting the species’ recovery, and the impact of the timber harvesting exclusion zones on the timber industry.
The review also explored possible alternative options for protecting Leadbeater's Possum colonies, and compares their potential effectiveness for the possum’s recovery and impact on the timber industry.
The review found the Timber Harvesting Exclusion Zones have contributed to the conservation of Leadbeater’s Possum.
The creation of exclusion zones around each verified colony has resulted in the protection of 436 Leadbeater’s Possum colonies (including new records since 2014 and existing records from the previous 15 years) in the State forests of Victoria's central highlands.
A total 4,046 hectares of State forest has been reserved inside the Timber Harvesting Exclusion Zones, and the review has found that the risk of extinction of the Leadbeater's Possum within the Leadbeater's Possum reserve system has been reduced by approximately 34% as a result of the action.
Leadbeater’s Possum remains at a high risk of extinction until 2050-70, due to ongoing habitat loss (especially loss of hollow-bearing trees) and the likelihood of future bushfires.
VicForests estimates that the exclusion zones established up until January 2017 will result in a loss of revenue from sawlog harvesting of $14.77 million to 2030. Additional roading costs for coupes on the current timber harvest release plan are estimated to be $5.574 million.
The review has made six recommendations for the continued recovery of Leadbeater’s Possum, while maintaining a sustainable timber industry, including:
- Continue the 200m Timber Harvesting Exclusion Zone prescription around verified LBP colonies.
- Review how the exclusion zones are applied to reduce unnecessary indirect impacts on the timber industry while ensuring adequate protection for Leadbeater’s Possum.
- Undertake further field studies to improve knowledge of Leadbeater’s Possum.
- Further develop species models as the basis for improved forest planning and conservation management.
- Review THEZs and other existing Special Protection Zones (SPZs) in the Central Highlands to optimise for timber availability, protection for LBP, other threatened species and other forest values.
- Transition to landscape-scale planning for threatened species management.
The review’s methodologies and their application have been independently assessed by Professor John Woinarski of Charles Darwin University in terms of benefits to the Leadbeater’s Possum and by forest consulting service Indufor Group in terms of costs to the timber industry.
The Victorian Government is considering the report and will respond in due course.
The current Planning Standards in the Code of Practice for Timber Harvesting 2014 will continue to apply while the report is being considered.
See DELWP's Arthur Rylah Institute website for more information about surveys for this species.