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'Iconic species': Greater gliders listed as endangered across Australia

The scope of Australia’s extinction crisis is growing, with greater gliders uplisted from vulnerable to endangered.

Resembling koalas or fluffy possums, the large marsupials were significantly impacted by the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires.

Reliant on tree hollows for nesting, habitat loss from land clearing and logging are now key drivers of their decline.

Greater gliders have been federally listed as endangered. Source: WWF-Australia
Greater gliders have been federally listed as endangered. Source: WWF-Australia

This destruction has caused their numbers to plummet by approximately 80 per cent in just 20 years, and the loss of habitat is being exacerbated by climate change.

Listing the species as vulnerable in 2016 appeared to do little to help its survival, with a report by WWF-Australia finding habitat loss subsequently increased by 52 per cent in NSW and Queensland.

Minister explains reasons behind endangered listing

The uplisting of the species was enacted by Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek on Tuesday.

She accepted a recommendation of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee that will see it listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).

State-owned logging operations continue to destroy greater glider habitat. Source: Getty (File)
State-owned logging operations continue to destroy greater glider habitat. Source: Getty (File)

“Greater gliders are susceptible to bushfires as they rely on mature trees with hollows to survive. This is particularly devastating as natural hollows, their homes, can take up to 100 years to form," Minister Plibersek said.

“This uplisting will ensure prioritisation of recovery actions to protect this iconic species. In addition, it will now have greater protections under environmental law.

“The government is determined to take real action to protect our native species and their habitats. I’ll have more to say when I release the State of the Environment report later this month.”

Pressure to reform logging operations to prevent extinctions

Australian Conservation Foundation's Basha Stasak said news that another native animal is facing extinction was was "incredibly sad".

“Australia has one of the world’s highest extinction rates and since the national environment law came into force more than 20 years ago, the list of threatened species and ecosystems has continued to grow," she said.

Minister Plibersek is under growing pressure to overhaul Australia’s biodiversity protection laws which were called “ineffective”, “weak” and “tokenistic” by Professor Graeme Samuel who undertook a review of the EPBC in 2020.

WWF-Australia’s Dr Kita Ashman has warned more species will be lost unless habitat protection laws are strengthened and native forest logging is ceased.

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

Greater glider habitat continues to be logged by state-owned operations in Victoria and NSW under regional forest agreements which are largely exempt from the EPBC protections.

Amid growing criticism of native forest logging in Victoria, the Andrews government has introduced legislation to stop protesters from disrupting operations.

If passed through both houses, those found guilty would face 12 months jail or $21,000 in fines.

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