n49le609 Healesville Sanctuary.  The first female Leadbeater`s Possum to begin Zoos Victoria�s captive breeding program had her first ever vet check at Healesville Sanctuary. The specialist veterinary team gave her a thorough health examination. She was also be micro-chipped. It will be happening at the Australian Wildlife Health Centre.
n49le609 Healesville Sanctuary. The first female Leadbeater`s Possum to begin Zoos Victoria�s captive breeding program had her first ever vet check at Healesville Sanctuary. The specialist veterinary team gave her a thorough health examination. She was also be micro-chipped. It will be happening at the Australian Wildlife Health Centre.

How this tiny possum cost Victoria $20m

Don't be fooled by its adorable good looks - the tiny leadbeater's possum is claimed to have cost Victoria more than $20 million in revenue. And a fresh decision is set to hit one of Victoria's ailing industries hard.

The status of the state's official faunal emblem will remain intact following a two-year review which was triggered by angry Coalition MPs who argued the federal government should put "people before possums".

The decision will likely hit the state's timber industry hard, with claims excess protections for the possum have cost more than $20 million in revenue and 3000ha of commercial forestry over 10 years.

Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said she was taking the "decisive and informed action" to ensure endangered species remained a priority for all levels of government.

Up to 2500 leadbeater’s possums are thought to be in central Victoria’s native forest. Picture: Hamish Blair
Up to 2500 leadbeater’s possums are thought to be in central Victoria’s native forest. Picture: Hamish Blair

"While listing anything as critically endangered is not good news, I believe this decision will ensure this iconic mammal gets the attention it deserves," she told the Herald Sun.

The state's timber industry is already battling with contractors saying they are running out of native forest material to harvest after the Andrews Government deferred a decision on future hardwood allocations.

Ms Ley said she made the decision after listening carefully to the government's expert committee and those who make their living from the land.

She said she welcomed the forestry industry's willingness to help save the possum including an agreement to place a 200m barrier around all nesting trees.

Once thought to be extinct, it is estimated up to 2500 possums remain in Victoria's native forests with about 527 of the 688 known colonies having been identified since 2014.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley will confirm the leadbeater’s possum critically endangered status today.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley will confirm the leadbeater’s possum critically endangered status today.

But industry argues only 6 to 10 per cent of the possum's potential habitat in the Central Highlands has been surveyed.

The Australian Forest Products Association has asked Ms Ley for $1 million to fund an "independent and comprehensive" study to close the "significant gaps" before a Recovery Plan is developed.

"Until such a study is completed, releasing a final Recovery Plan based on the limited science available could compromise conservation efforts and adversely impact Victoria's forest industries, which employ thousands of people across the state," AFPA chief executive Ross Hampton said.

"A comprehensive survey will not only provide a more accurate understanding of the Possum's status, but also inform a whole-of-landscape approach to the conservation of this important species."

 

Heyfield Mill workers marched to Parliament House in 2017 over threats to the timber industry. Picture: Jason Edwards
Heyfield Mill workers marched to Parliament House in 2017 over threats to the timber industry. Picture: Jason Edwards

Ms Ley will also upgrade the listings of eight more species, including six species of Queensland frogs while the white-throated needletail bird, found in Victoria, will placed in the "vulnerable" category.

Among the frogs to be listed as critically endangered are the elegant frog, rattling nursery frog and the Mount Elliot nursery frog.

The salt myoporum shrub will be removed from the list after it was found to be more abundant than previously thought and no longer eligible for the threatened list.

The federal government has come under increased scrutiny over Australia's poor extinction rates, with more than 500 animal species under threat.

rob.harris@news.com.au