Citizen scientists’ bid to prevent extinction will be four times harder under a Coalition government

It’s 2am in the morning and cold in the forest, but until he finds a Leadbeater’s Possum, WOTCH surveyor Jake Mckenzie won’t think of going home. The forest he’s surveying in is scheduled to be logged, and under current environment laws one of the only ways to protect the area from being bulldozed is by finding a Leadbeater’s Possum so that a 200m protection zone will be put in place around the sighting.

 Above: WOTCH surveyors conduct a spotlight survey in the forest.

Above: WOTCH surveyors conduct a spotlight survey in the forest.


“The critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum is one of the few threatened animals that actually get protection from logging in the forests of the Central Highlands.” said Jake Mckenzie, surveyor at WOTCH. “Species like the threatened Greater Glider don’t get any protection at all in the Central Highlands.”

But the Liberals plan to change that. An article in the Age today (18/11/18) [1] revealed the Coalition’s plan to reduce the radius of Leadbeater’s Possum protection zones from 200m to 100m. A protection zone with a radius of 200m has an area of 12.6 hectares. A protection zone with a radius of 100m is a quarter of the size, at 3.1 hectares.

This drastic reduction in size would be disastrous for the possum and put four times the pressure on volunteer citizen scientists to prevent the possum’s extinction.

 Above: A critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum detected on a survey.

Above: A critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum detected on a survey.

“WOTCH is 100% volunteer run. Our surveyors are out in the mountain ash forests of Victoria’s Central Highlands multiple times a week, hoping to find a Leadbeater’s Possum so that a protection zone will be put in place and we can save a patch of forest. Making a protection zone four times as small will make the work of our volunteer surveyors four times as hard.” said WOTCH surveyor, Jake Mckenzie.

“The Coalition’s plan to reduce the Leadbeater’s Possum protection zone by 75%, to a measly 3.1 hectares, is completely crooked.” said WOTCH president, Maggie Riddington. “200m protection zones are already inadequate. Experts on the possum’s ecology say that to ensure its survival, protection zones should have a radius of 1km. To suggest axing already inadequately small protection zones to a fraction of their current size is pure madness. We’re talking about the survival of an entire species here. Once they’re gone, that’s it."

Not only that, but the Liberals plan to extend the Regional Forest Agreements, dodgy logging agreements that exempt state-owned logging agency VicForests from national environment law.

“As long as the logging industry is exempt from national environment law they will continue to log the habitat of endangered animals with no repercussions. We’re in the midst of an extinction crisis. The Senate is conducting an inquiry into Australia’s record level of mammal extinctions. To weaken threatened species laws is to seal their fate.” said Maggie Riddington, WOTCH spokesperson. "The survival of a species shouldn't be at the whim of a political party."


[1] https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/possum-protection-zones-could-be-chopped-in-coalition-timber-plan-20181114-p50g22.html?fbclid=IwAR3vInFdNIUKU9TGIM17xn-foB1mTbb0tSxsztcBxXRLv7k00JNQ06zL5jM