MEDIA RELEASE 12 March 2024 |

A critically endangered stonefly that lives in Victoria’s alpine region faces extinction after a state government decision, conservationists and scientists have warned.

The Mount Donna Buang Wingless Stonefly, which lives on the mountain about an hour and a half from Melbourne, is a remarkable small insect because of its lifespan of more than two years.

The Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) applied in March 2023 for it to be given a critical habitat determination under state nature laws designed to protect threatened species.

But the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DECCA) last week rejected the application despite the state government’s own scientists arguing in favour of VNPA’s report.

“This is an incredibly disappointing decision by the State’s environment Department to reject advice from its own scientific advisors and the solid scientific basis of the critical habitat application,” said VNPA Parks and Nature Campaigner Jordan Crook.

“The stonefly lives in a small area susceptible to major threats including climate change, fire, water pollution and visitation, meaning it needs special management.

“A critical habitat determination for the wingless stonefly would have started a process to give this remarkable creature the extra care and effort required to protect it from extinction.”

VNPA’s application to the state’s Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) was informed by decades of scientific work that showed the insect suffered an 80 per cent decline despite being protected in a national park.

“Scientists agree that a critical habitat determination should be made under the state’s Flora And Fauna Guarantees Act, an important but widely neglected tool in Victoria’s nature laws,” said Mr Crook.

While the department rejected the application, it also released long-awaited figures showing Victoria has 500 critically endangered and 2000 threatened species.

“It’s time the Victorian government stepped up and used all of the tools available, like critical habitat determinations, to protect the growing list of threatened species. We need a clear annual critical habitat to-do-list, so we can tick them off, not reports that gather dust on a shelf,” Mr Crook said.

The Mount Donna Buang Wingless Stonefly evolved over millions of years to not need its wings and shed them for a quiet life beside cool and clean freshwater streams flowing after snow melt and from the rainforest gullies.

In summer they drill down into the gravelly stream edges to avoid the heat of summer and at other times live in the rolled up pieces of tree bark. This could explain the insect’s long life living over two years which is remarkable for a small insect.