Shocking act in Australian national park after rare animal’s death exposed

The government was warned a greater glider was living in an ancient hollowed tree. Its contractors cut it down.

A circle around the tree felled in the Yarra Ranges National Park. Logs cut from the tree in the foreground. The dead glider in the inset.
A greater glider (inset) was found with multiple injuries including evidence of blunt trauma at the base of a tree (circled) felled by a Victorian government agency. Source: WOTCH/Forest Conservation Victoria

A week after an endangered mammal was found dead inside an Australian national park new details have emerged from its pathology report.

Victorian authorities have confirmed with Yahoo the greater glider showed signs of blunt force trauma. The result is not surprising and conservationists say it's "not hard to join the dots".

  • The greater glider was found next to a tree that had been felled.

  • A greater glider hollow had been documented in the tree.

  • A greater glider was filmed emerging from that hollow days before it was cut down.

The tree was one of dozens earmarked for destruction inside the Yarra Ranges National Park by Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMV), which sits within the Victorian government’s environment department (DEECA).

It says the program is important in preventing bushfires, but last week WWF-Australia labelled it “complete madness” and questioned why these ancient trees suddenly need removing given some have stood in the national park for over 100 years.

After a tree was marked for removal by FFMV (left), investigators identified a hollow in its branches (centre) and filmed a greater glider living inside (right). Source: WOTCH
After a tree was marked for removal by FFMV (left), investigators identified a hollow in its branches (centre) and filmed a greater glider living inside (right). Source: WOTCH

Despite the high profile death of the greater glider last week, FFMV appears determined to keep felling old growth trees in national parks. New pictures have been supplied to Yahoo News by investigators from Forest Conservation Victoria showing the stump of a 2.85 metre giant that was discovered felled on Friday.

The tree is of such a size that four people can be seen sitting comfortably spaced out in front. It likely grew at the site for well over a century.

The stump of a 2.85 metre tree in the Yarra Ranges National Park. Four people sit in front of it. Another sits on top of it.
A massive 2.85 metre tree was discovered felled on May 24. Source: Forest Conservation Victoria

Before the tree with the greater glider in it was cut down a week ago, a team from Wildlife Of The Central Highlands (WOTCH) had repeatedly warned the Victorian Government and its federal counterpart the marsupial was living inside. They even produced video evidence which you can watch below.

Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMV) has maintained the trees were a danger to their workers.

“The habitat value of every tree deemed hazardous is assessed by our expert staff against the risk to the public and to firefighters, when required this assessment is done in consultation with independent experts," FFMV claimed a week ago in response to questions from Yahoo.

But the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) disputes the trees are a danger. It commissioned its own independent arborist report, seen by Yahoo, which assessed 16 trees and concluded there was a one in a million chance of them harming anyone.

Last week when we asked FFMV about its decision to cut down the tree. It said, "We make every effort to minimise impacts on flora and fauna and follow a rigorous planning and approvals process".

The Victorian and Commonwealth governments are legally required to protect endangered species. Prior to the greater glider's death, the federal department of environment told Yahoo it was making enquiries into the removal of trees in Yarra Ranges National Park, but it has refused to supply any details of what this entails.

The tree was cut down by FFMV and logs were salvaged from its trunk and dragged across the fire break. Source: WOTCH
The tree was cut down by FFMV and logs were salvaged from its trunk and dragged across the fire break. Source: WOTCH

Since Sunday, Yahoo News has repeatedly requested a copy of the necropsy report that DEECA commissioned after the greater glider died.

On Thursday it confirmed its pathologists had reported the manner of death as indeterminate, but they had noted evidence of blunt trauma. It did not release the necropsy report.

Blake Nisbet from WOTCH told Yahoo News on Friday that "it's not hard to join the dots" and see what killed the animal.

"The evidence to us is extremely clear. We filmed that greater glider emerging from a hollow in that tree two weeks ago. We told them and they still cut it down. And that's where the animal was found dead," he said.

A man kneels on the ground after making a sad discovery on the ground.
Conservationists were left heartbroken after discovering the dead glider. Source: Forest Conservation Victoria

FFMV is yet to answer why it cut the tree down despite there being clear evidence there was an endangered species living in it.

Greater glider habitat trees are in short supply because of Victoria’s decades-old logging program. They live inside eucalypt hollows which do not start forming for 100 years.

Operations inside the Yarra Ranges National Park and the Dandenong Ranges National Park, 55km to the south west, had ceased for the last nine days. Protesters are not convinced the FFMV is "making every effort" to protect greater gliders and have locked themselves onto tree harvesting equipment to prevent it being used.

But on Friday morning Yahoo received new reports from conservationists inside Yarra Ranges National Park that "logging" had resumed and a 2.85 metre-wide tree had been felled.

A protester with his face covered locked onto equipment.
Protesters locked themselves onto equipment inside the Yarra Ranges and Dandenong National Parks. Source: Forest Conservation Victoria

Since Victoria’s new premier Jacinta Allan assumed office in September, relations have become strained with conservationists.

Multiple groups including WOTCH and VNPA have accused the Allan government of circumventing an announcement by her predecessor Dan Andrews that Labor would end commercial native forest logging in January. Instead they say her government of continuing to “log by stealth”, employing contractors formerly associated with the state-owned logging agency VicForests to cut down trees in national parks and state forests.

Her decisions also appear to have upset the state’s largest wildlife rescue organisation, Wildlife Victoria. It was outraged after her government ignored the findings of a parliamentary inquiry into the state’s duck season, ordered under Andrews, which found hunting should be banned. Instead, it committed $10 million to support the activity.

At the same time it rejected Wildlife Victoria’s plea for what it described as a “modest” increase in funds to help it respond to a 46 per cent rise in calls for assistance over the four years to 2023.

On Wednesday the charity said the government’s failure to immediately release the greater glider’s necropsy report highlighted a “disturbing trend” in the government’s treatment of wildlife.

“From old growth forests to the development sites on urban fringes, our state government is continuing to bulldoze the homes of our wildlife often with fatal impacts on local populations,” Wildlife Victoria said.

“We urge the government to release the necropsy findings and to share the outcome of the investigation. Victorians genuinely care about the survival of our precious native wildlife, it's beyond time our government does the same.”

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