Conservationists have renewed calls for an end to native forest logging as Australia’s largest gliding mammal, the greater glider, has been listed as endangered.
The federal government has moved the species from a vulnerable to endangered listing at a national level.
More than 30 per cent of the southern and central greater gliders’ habitat was lost during the Black Summer bushfires and the species has remained vulnerable to logging and a warming climate.
ANU researcher David Lindenmayer, who has extensively studied the greater glider, said stronger action was needed to ensure the animal’s survival.
“We already lead the world in mammal extinctions and we lost three species in the last decade,” Professor Lindenmayer said.
“It’s unacceptable, with the knowledge that we have, for these kinds of barbaric outcomes to continue to happen.”
The glider is a nocturnal marsupial, with a body spanning 35-46 centimetres long and a tail that can reach 60cm long.
Federal Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek said the listing change would help protect the species.
“We will provide them with better protection and the opportunity to recover … [after] the real blow to the number of greater gliders we saw after the Black Summer bushfires,” she said.
Renewed calls to stop logging
While conservationists like Professor Lindenmayer supported the new listing, he believed addressing the environmental impacts of native logging would be essential to protect the species.
“We need to make sure the regional forest agreements are reformed,” he said.
“We need to move our native forest logging industry into plantations, which don’t destroy greater glider habitat.”
Last month, citizen scientists in Victoria sighted 40 greater gliders in areas where they understood logging was planned.
It is not the first time greater glider habitat has been scheduled for logging, with a similar situation occurring on the NSW-Victoria border last year.
However, Ms Plibersek said decisions around native forest logging fell to state governments.
“States will be responsible in the first instance for evaluating the new conservation advice,” she said.
“And they will in the first instance be determining if they need to change their forest management systems.”
Hopes the listing will also stop development
Founder of Manyana Matters, Jorj Lowrey said she hoped the listing would provide greater protection to three important Greater Glider habitats threatened by housing development on the South Coast of NSW.
“We know we are losing them, she said.
“It’s bittersweet that it has been recognised, but it is so sad that it has come to this.”
In Manyana, the group is fighting to stop a proposed development on 20 hectares of land in the north-eastern corner of the township and a 76-hectare development near the Bendalong Road.
The Manyana Coast and JWD–Heir Asquith projects are still in the planning pipeline.
Ms Lowrey said black summer bushfires caused incredible devastation in the area, and the land was a critical animal habitat.
“It was really like an arc after the fires because it was one of the few areas that did not burn, and any animals that survived were living in that area.”
In Callala Bay, the group is trying to stop a major land rezoning by Halloran Trust as part of plans for 40 hectares of residential development.
“This land is teeming with Greater Gliders, Yellow Belly Gliders, the Powerful Owl, all sorts of wonderful species in this virgin bush not affected by the fires.
“These areas are just that much more important. We can’t destroy, we have to save them.
“The Callala Bay land may be one of the last strongholds for this species.”
Other species at risk too
Moruya-based biologist Deborah Stevenson, from the NSW far south coast, said logging and land clearing had impacts on other species too.
“There are about 10 species that rely on similar habitats to the greater glider, which is those old-growth tall forests with lots of hollows and feeding resources,” she said.
Those species include the yellow-bellied glider, koalas and certain types of owls.
Ms Stevenson also said a portion of their local greater glider habitat was not burnt during the 2019-2020 bushfires, making them “even more important” to protect.
“That population between the Moruya River and Tuross didn’t burn,” she said.
“So, we need to be even more careful about further clearing and just managing feral predators within our area.”
The federal environment department is now working on a national recovery plan to implement more specific protections for the species, but a timeline has not been announced.
Ms Plibersek said the government was also investing money to get ten projects off the ground, which aim to further protect the species.
“We’ve got about 1.7 million dollars set aside for protection and recovery of the species,” she said.
“We’re looking at whether installing nesting boxes in areas that have been bushfire affected might provide homes and habitat for greater gliders.
“We’re [also] looking at reforesting or replanting the sorts of plants that greater gliders rely on.”