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Gliding into an uncertain future


IMAGE: Endemic and endearing—yet our Greater Gliders remain at risk | H.Beste

The greatest glider of them all

Found in the eastern eucalypt forests that stretch from Daylesford, Victoria to as far north as Mossman, Queensland, our Greater Gliders (Petauroides Volans) are the largest gliding marsupials in Australia.

Like other gliders, they have membranes on each side of their bodies—however, theirs only extend from ankle to elbow, rather than to the wrist.

Don’t underestimate them though, as they can still glide up to 100 metres at a time.

Nocturnal and solitary, they den in the hollows of old trees and are mostly silent. Feeding on the young leaves, buds and flowers of eucalypt trees, these wondrous creatures were once an abundant and thriving species.

As trees are swindled, gliders dwindle

In the last 20 years alone, Greater Gliders have suffered an 80% dive in population. This is partly due to the increase in frequency and severity of bushfires, and ongoing native forest logging. Bushfires, although linked to climate change, are harder to prevent or control—but protecting our native forests from logging is something that can and must be acted on right away.

State government logging agency, VicForests, clearfells in areas like the Strathbogie Ranges, the Central Highlands and East Gippsland—areas known to boast many of Victoria’s remaining Greater Gliders, amongst other threatened species.

Attempts are made time and again to prevent logging in Greater Glider habitat, and there have been success stories as a result of the citizen science conducted by groups such as GECO—but is it enough?

IMAGE: The Cottonwood Range is a stronghold for Greater Gliders | Martin Stringer

It’s a vulnerable life

Listed as Vulnerable on the federal list of threatened species (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) in May 2016, and regrettably making the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act) in 2017, the situation is becoming more and more critical for our Greater Gliders with every year that passes.

However, with logging continuing in Victoria’s glider habitats—such as the Cottonwood Range forests in East Gippsland, and near Hermitage Creek on the world-famous Black Spur—these marsupials will continue to glide up the list towards extinction.

In East Gippsland, a protection zone can be established wherever there is found to be more than ten Greater Gliders residing within a one kilometre range. This only ever happens when citizen science groups encourage the department into enforcing the law. However, if only 10 or fewer animals are found, these areas are left open for logging, and a certain death for these native animals, despite their addition to threatened species lists.

These outdated laws were put in place during a time when the population of Greater Gliders was much higher. And in other regions of Victoria, no amount of Greater Gliders can provide cause for legal protection, which is incredible considering the species has been added to the threatened species list.

The Greater Gliders recent, sobering addition to the FFG Act should instate full protection of the species—however, since it made the list, logging continues in Glider populated areas.

It’s time to put pressure on Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio to recognise the importance of these iconic creatures, and to strengthen and enforce the laws to prevent further death of our native species caused by the native forest logging industry.

Can you help our Greater Gliders?

In order to support the recovery of Greater Glider populations, we have recommended that Minister Lily D’Ambrosio work with the independent Scientific Advisory Committee to map critical habitat of the species, as they have offered. We have also recommended an Interim Conservation Order be declared. But we cannot do it alone.

Please help the Greater Glider by writing to Minister Lily D’Ambrosio using GECO’s template or—better yet—your own words.

GECO is also hosting a citizen science survey camp later this year, which is an amazing opportunity to be involved with like-minded ecologists working hard to save species and win back our forests. Find out more.