News - 29 January 2016

How to save a forest fairy from extinction


Victoria’s gorgeous animal emblem, the Fairy (Leadbeater's) Possum is smaller than a human hand and notoriously shy.

In fact, the Fairy Possum is so elusive that it was thought extinct up until 1961, when it was rediscovered in the tall forests of the Central Highlands about 80 kilometres northeast of Melbourne. Today, around only 1,500 Fairy Possums exist outside of zoos. To put this in perspective, a 2004 study estimated the wild population of the endangered Orangutan to be in the vicinity of 61,000. 

After three decades of extensive research, the science is very clear; if we don't do something serious now, the Fairy Possum will become extinct within our lifetime. 

The slow march towards extinction

Extinction is not something that happens overnight. It doesn't simply occur the moment the last individual of a species dies. Rather, the extinction process occurs over years and decades.

The Mountain Ash forests of the Central Highlands have existed for 60 million years, the Fairy Possum for 20 million. There is now a crisis in biodiversity in these forests, driven by the major change introduced in just the last 100 years - logging.

The global expert on the Fairy Possum, Professor David Lindenmayer, has developed a new suite of forest management prescriptions to help rescue the species and to restore their forest home.

Professor Lindenmayer has set out the steps that need to be taken in our forests to solve the biodiversity crisis in the Central Highlands. He’s explained the science, and his recommendations, to government and to forest managers. But the the Victorian state government is not yet listening, and Fairy Possum habitat continues to be logged.

Six steps to protection

  1. A new zoning system for the Fairy Possum – protection of trees that are the animal’s forest home
  2. Increasing protection of areas known to contain the Fairy Possum
  3. Protection of living and dead habitat trees
  4. Protect all old-growth
  5. Protect riverside forests
  6. An end to clearfell logging

Young supporters holding photos of Victoria's native forests. Photo by Shah Alamdar. Young supporters holding photos of Victoria's native forests. Photo by Shah Alamdar.

Restoring the Great Forests of the Central Highlands

Just 60 kilometres east of Melbourne grow some of the tallest trees on Earth. In these high canopies live dainty gliders, magnificent owls and the tiny Fairy Possum.

These forests have flourished along under rich rainfall patterns and provide most of Melbourne's drinking water. Science tells us that they're the most carbon rich forests on Earth due to their cooler climate and epic growth rates.

The new Great Forest National Park (GFNP) is a proposal to create a two tiered park system for bush users and bush lovers alike that protects and maintains this important ecosystem function. The park will host a range of activities such as bike riding, bushwalking, bird watching, four-wheel driving, camping, zip line tours and more.

The GFNP will also be an investment for the long-term. It will secure Melbourne's domestic water supply catchments, a suite of new economic opportunities for the region will roll-out, while at the same time, securing a future for the the state's animal emblem, the Fairy Possum.