MEDIA RELEASE 21 June 2022 |
New research reveals more Greater Gliders at risk from logging in Wombat Forest as national park designation delayed
New research has uncovered a population hotspot of the Greater Glider in Wombat Forest, a discovery that is set to trigger Victoria’s protection act and restrict VicForests’ proposed logging of the area.
The population survey, conducted over three nights in January 2022 by citizen scientists supported by the Victorian National Parks Association, recorded an unexpected 40 Greater Gliders, four Koalas and even a Powerful Owl, Australia’s largest owl species. Footage of the Greater Gliders is here.
“We were expecting to spot a few Greater Gliders but to see such a dense population, especially this far west and after a third of their habitat was destroyed in the 2019/20 bushfires in eastern Victoria was really thrilling,” said Matt Ruchel, executive director of Victorian National Parks Association.
“The discovery of a Greater Glider population hotspot demands that all logging in the area must immediately stop and further investigation be urgently undertaken.”
The density of the population meets the threshold for protection under the State Government Action Statement for the Greater Glider. That requires VicForests to retain at least 40% of the basal area (number & size of tree stems) of eucalypts across each timber harvesting coupe, prioritising live, hollow bearing trees.
The discovery comes amid growing frustration with the Andrews Government, which despite designating the Wombat Forest as a national park 12 months ago has inexplicably expanded forestry and salvage logging in the area.
“Greater Gliders are Australia’s largest gliding marsupial but habitat destruction has seen their numbers dwindle. They won’t be safe until Wombat Forest is a National Park.”
“The Andrews Government is very keen to promote its conservation track record but a media release announcing a national park doesn’t protect anything if it’s not legislated.”
The VNPA says that without a clear legislative timeline and the aggressively expanded salvage logging the area will require greater rehabilitation and restoration in the future.
The area where these Greater Gliders were found is across seven planned logging coupes and is surrounded by additional salvage logging coupes. At least one of these coupes also contain records of Greater Gliders.
Under the action statement Greater Glider density equal to or greater than five individuals per spotlight kilometre across seven logging coupes, triggers the 40% cap.
Greater Gliders have seen significant declines in key areas across the state over the last 20 years, and much of the suitable habitat within Victoria has been impacted by the current 2019 -2020 fires. Wombat State Forest (WSF) contains the only population of Greater Gliders west of Melbourne, and is a range-edge population of Greater Gliders in Australia. The nearest population is in the Central Highlands, which are approximately 80km away.