Media Releases - 24 April 2015

A critical moment for the Fairy Possum

The Fairy (Leadbeater’s) Possum is small, speedy and on the brink of extinction.

On 22nd April, Commonwealth Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced that the Fairy Possum is now listed as ‘critically endangered’ on the Australian Government’s list of threatened species.

Although it is a sombre moment when the status of an animal becomes critically endangered, this change in designation is an important step and is to be commended.

Less than a hand-span in length, the Fairy Possum lives in the Mountain Ash forests of the Central Highlands just a stone’s throw from Melbourne.

They sleep with their families in hollow trees during the day and leap through the understorey at night, hunting for insects and sweet nectar.[1]

Not only is the Fairy Possum Victoria's animal emblem, is also has a colourful history. It has already been considered lost once before in 1960, for after almost 50 years with no sightings of the magnificent animal, it was thought to be extinct. Then, in 1961, a single possum was sighted by naturalist Eric Wilkinson near Marysville, 90 minutes east of Melbourne.

However, the joy of this discovery was not to last because the population of the Fairy Possum’s population has now been decimated after decades of over logging. Even after the devastating 2009 bushfires, which destroyed 45 per cent of the Fairy Possum population, the rate of logging in the Fairy Possum’s home has not abated.

If today’s uplisting is not accompanied by strong action and the creation of the Great Forest National Park, the Fairy Possum risks slipping through our fingers once again, but this time perhaps into extinction.

The logging of the Fairy Possum’s forest home has pushed it dangerously close to extinction. Now the species has been officially recognised as critically endangered urgent action must be taken to provide immediate interim protection to forests where they live.

Up-listing an animal can yield positive results. For instance, in Brazil, the Lear's macaw – a spectacular blue parrot – had been uplisted to critically endangered.

Following this up-listing, a joint effort of national and international non-governmental organisations, the Brazilian government and local landowners began and subsequently the population is now beginning to thrive. It has even been removed from the critically endangered list![2]  

Without the needed attention from the community as a whole, the Lear's macaw could have been added to the growing list of the hundreds of thousands of unique animals we no longer share the planet with.

With yesterday’s uplisting, it is now incumbent on the Victorian state government to act swiftly to protect the forests that this iconic animal calls home, and for Minister Hunt to back the Great Forest National Park proposal.

Email Minister Hunt now to applaud his decision to uplist the Fairy Possum and ask for the creation of the Park to ensure its survival - [email protected]   



Written by Wilderness Society volunteer Diane Cameron and staff Amelia Young, Ben Campbell and Campbell Klose.