Large gliders listed as endangered as extinction threatens iconic species

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“It was one of the most common species you would see if you were doing surveys or searchlights 30 years ago,” Lindenmayer said.

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“This fantastic and iconic animal and for all intents and purposes like a little soaring koala that is really the Australian equivalent of the panda.

“It is sensitive to the logging of its habitat. It’s sensitive to land clearing, it’s very sensitive to climate change. He is sensitive to fire.

Two years ago, scientists were stunned when a groundbreaking study revealed that there were actually three species of large gliders, not just one as previously assumed.

The greater southern glider, which lives in the forests of NSW and eastern Victoria, is the largest in the family with a head and body length of 35 to 46 centimeters, a tail length of 45 to 60 centimeters and weighing up to 1.7 kilograms.

The northern glider is about the size of the lesser ring-tailed opossum and lives in the eucalypt forests between Mackay and Cairns in Queensland. The central glider, which is sized between the northern and southern species, inhabits a range across southern Queensland and up to Mackay.

Very little is known about the two northern species.

Gliders were previously listed as vulnerable – which is designated when a species faces a high risk of extinction in the medium term.

The greater southern glider is now listed as endangered, meaning the species is at high risk of near-term extinction.

Lindenmayer hailed the endangered status, but said dramatic habitat protections and measures to reduce global warming were needed to prevent the large gliders from becoming extinct.

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“It’s a species we’re going to lose if we don’t get our act together. Yeah, it’s fantastic that it got listed [as endangered]. I think that’s great. But these are just words. We actually need to take sensible action.

“The world looks at Australia and says ‘oh my god, this place leads the world in mammalian extinctions’. The past decade we’ve lost three more species and we’re still dithering.

The federal government cited a population estimate of more than 100,000 large gliders in New South Wales and Victoria, which was made in 2014. It said large gliders have suffered a rate of population decline greater than 50% in the last 21 years, or three generations, including the destruction of more than 35% of the habitat during the 2019-2020 black summer bushfires.

The Australian government is investing $1.69 million in projects that aim to benefit the species through on-the-ground actions such as installing artificial tree hollows and targeted revegetation.

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