A citizen science survey has stopped logging on the Errinundra plateau again! Last night 11 Greater Gliders were found on a spotlighting survey in a forest being logged by VicForests. In East Gippsland Greater Gliders are protected by law when more than 10 individuals are found in a 1km long survey. GECO surveys identified 11 Greater Gliders in a 850m survey, triggering the legal requirement for the area to be placed into a Special Protection Zone (SPZ).
After burning the midnight oil with Australia's large gliding marsupials, we submitted our survey data first thing this morning, calling on the Department of Environment to stop the logging.
Logging was occurring in protected species habitat, before the Department could investigate. This afternoon DELWP confirmed that VicForests has suspended operations! Another great result for protected species thanks to an epic survey effort. Citizen surveys keep finding protected species where VicForests refuse to look.
The forest is near Bendoc, in the Queensborough river catchment. It's part of the northern extension of the Errinundra plateau. It is old growth wet forest with an abundance of hollows that gliders need for sleeping.
Cut tail ash trees are dominant, a favourite food tree for Greater Gliders. Australia's largest gliding marsupials munch on a diet of mostly gum leaves and live in family groups occupying very small home ranges of just 3ha of forest.
Clear-fell logging has removed vast swathes of hollow bearing trees east of the Errinundra national park leaving many areas that were previously rich in Greater Gliders deserted as the land is converted into young regrowth that will take over 100 years to form hollows suitable to be used by the species.
Greater Gliders are also an important source of food for the threatened large forest Owls, such as the Powerful and Sooty Owl. These top order predators need healthy populations of Gliders in their habitat to provide food.
Google Earth image of where survey was conducted, red points indicate Glider detections, orange shapes are logging coupes
The Greater Glider is listed as vulnerable on the Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria, 2013. The species is being considered for inclusion on the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation (EPBC) Act.
This good result for the Gliders mirrors our survey efforts in January in another Greater Glider stronghold that where logging had just commenced, VicForests were forced to exit that area and the Department's investigation resulted in a 100 ha protected area, stopping logging in a number of coupes to protect Greater Glider habitat.
Grey/White morph Greater Glider within logging coupe
In light of that survey VicForests told ABC news they would be reviewing how the company conduct pre logging threatened species surveys, after citizen surveys finding protected species where VicForests don't look.
Once again citizen surveys are proving that VicForests can't be trusted to ensure their logging operations are not impacting on protected species. We need independent oversight and more research and monitoring of threatened species. Leaving it up to the loggers to look for protected species is a conflict of interest and guaranteed to produce outcomes that put logging interests first while legal obligations are waived and protected habitat is logged.
The Gliders were lucky we found them last night, the vast majority of their habitat in the coupe remains intact and will hopefully be placed into a reserve, pending the Department's investigation. But we can't be everywhere and many areas of important habitat are being logged without appropriate pre logging surveys and legally required planning and zoning measures to protect threatened species.