By JESSE GRAHAM
A THREATENED Species Summit held last week has kicked off ‘emergency intervention’ plans for the critically-endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, with community groups to be consulted on its survival.
On Thursday 16 July, scientists, environmentalists, government representatives and Zoos Victoria members gathered at Melbourne Zoo for the first Threatened Species Summit, chaired by Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt.
The event was dedicated to discussing actions to “turn around the trajectory” of endangered mammals and birds, some of which face extinction in the coming years, according to Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews.
Speaking to the Mail on Friday 17 July, Mr Andrews said the Leadbeater’s Possum, which is located in the Central Highlands region and in Yellingbo, was one of the animals listed at the meeting for emergency intervention.
A Threatened Species Strategy – an action plan outlining targets to protect 20 mammals, 20 birds and 30 plants on the threatened species list – was launched at the summit.
Featuring recovery plans for animals and a program to cull two million feral cats in the next five years, the document reads as a road-map to help reverse the trajectory towards extinction for many animals.
However, the document lists little in the way of action for the Leadbeater’s Possum, which was up-listed to Critically Endangered in April, despite the fact it was listed for emergency intervention.
In the five-year outlook in the strategy, year one lists “Action commenced for Leadbeater’s Possum and central rock-rat,” with actions under way for all 20 mammals by year three.
A document on the emergency interventions lists a project by Zoos Victoria to create new habitat for the possum, and for the National Environmental Science Program Threatened Species Recovery Hub to explore “options to recover the species”.
Mr Andrews said the first step in the intervention for the possum would be drafting a report for Mr Hunt, which would then inform the updating of the animal’s Recovery Plan, last updated in 1997.
“He said he would ask me to have a report to him by 31 August,” Mr Andrews said.
“It’s not the Draft Recovery Plan itself, it’s a report to him on what needs to be done.
“That involves working in part with the Victorian Government and the Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum and the scientists, and I’ll be drawing heavily on the advice of Professor David Lindenmayer.”
He said that he would “get to work” on the report on Monday 20 July.
MyEnvironment members Steve Meacher and Sarah Rees, who both attended the summit, said the event was an “excellent initiative”.
“It’s been an excellent initiative by Minister Hunt,” Ms Rees said.
“We all feel it’s a good direction, and we’re looking to support him in every way we can, to ensure the best possible outcome for our threatened species, especially the Leadbeater’s Possum.
“We fully support (Threatened Species Commissioner) Gregory Andrews in this – they’ve done a good job.”
The Threatened Species Summit was announced by Minister Hunt on 23 April, the day after the Leadbeater’s Possum’s up-listing, at Healesville Sanctuary.
For more information on the summit or to view the strategy plan and the related documents, visit www.environment.gov.au