WWF: Endangered listing must be a turning point for the greater glider

The decision to list the world’s largest gliding marsupial, the greater glider, as an endangered species must be followed by urgent action to protect their forest homes, says WWF-Australia.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek this week accepted the recommendation of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee to list greater gliders from “vulnerable” to “endangered” under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) 1999.

Greater gliders were once abundant along Australia’s east coast, but populations have crashed by as much as 80% in the last 20 years due to habitat destruction including land-clearing and logging, as well as bushfires fuelled by a rapidly changing climate.

This week’s decision, which follows submissions from conservation groups including WWF-Australia, recognises the species is one step further along the pathway to extinction.

Dr Kita Ashman, WWF-Australia Threatened Species and Climate Adaptation Ecologist said the endangered listing must be a turning point that leads to stronger nature laws.

“Put simply, Australia will lose this species unless we strengthen laws to protect their homes and cease logging native forests,” Dr Ashman said.

“We must transition towards certified plantations if we are to give these amazing creatures a fighting chance for the future.”

Largely unknown compared to koalas, greater gliders are nocturnal and can glide up to 100 metres through the forest canopy. They nest in the hollows of old trees and, like koalas, they mostly eat eucalypt leaves.

A report by WWF-Australia found the destruction of greater glider habitat actually increased by more than 50% in Queensland and also increased in NSW after the species was listed as vulnerable in 2016.

The forestry industry also continues to log greater glider habitat in Victoria and parts of NSW under “regional forest agreements”, which allow logging to operate under a special set of rules that bypass scrutiny under the EPBC Act.

Dr Ashman said the species, sometimes described as the “clumsy possum”, would continue its shocking decline without genuine reforms to the EPBC Act and end native timber harvesting in all greater glider habitats.

“It’s tragic that we’re losing these amazing creatures before many people even know they exist,” she said.

“They’ve gone from no listing to vulnerable to endangered in six years. This is a devastating decline that will continue without urgent action.

“There’s so much that we don’t know about greater gliders. We’ve only just found out that there are at least three distinct species.

“They could be a flagship species that connects Australian people to nature, but they just haven’t been given that chance yet.”

WWF-Australia is working to restore and protect habitat for greater gliders and other species affected by the 2019-2020 bushfires. Find out more and help Regenerate Australia at www.wwf.org.au/regenerate-australia.

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