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Renewed Interest

The interest in Leadbeater’s Possum and its plight has only grown in recent years through advocacy, activism and education

Since 2009 there has been renewed scientific and community interest. On the 22nd April 2015, Greg Hunt, the then Federal Minister for the Environment announced that the Leadbeater’s Possum would be listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

A captive breeding program at Healesville Sanctuary commenced in May 2012. The program originally comprised 16 individuals from the genetically distinct population at Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve . They were housed as pairs in large enclosures off display. In October 2023 there was cause for celebration, as a female possum gave birth to twins at the sanctuary.

Since 2009, there has been a notable resurgence in both scientific and community engagement surrounding the conservation efforts for the Leadbeater’s Possum. This heightened interest culminated in a significant announcement on April 22, 2015, when Greg Hunt, the then Federal Minister for the Environment, declared the Leadbeater’s Possum as ‘Critically Endangered’ under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Following this designation, a proactive captive breeding program was initiated at Healesville Sanctuary in May 2012. The program initially comprised 16 individuals sourced from the genetically distinct population at Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve. These possums were carefully paired and housed in spacious enclosures away from public view.

In a moment of joy and hope for the species, October 2023 marked a milestone as a female possum successfully gave birth to twins within the sanctuary’s care, signifying a significant step forward in the preservation efforts for this critically endangered species.

  • 1867
    First specimens were collected in the scrub on the banks of the Bass River in Gippsland, Victoria.
  • 1909
    LbP last collected from Sunnyside, in the high country near Omeo. The specimen was mis-identified and its significance was not realised until the 1930s.
  • 3rd April1961
    Eric Wilkinson rediscovered LbP at Cambarville and Tommy’s Bend, near Marysville in the Central Highlands
  • 1967
    Des Hackett secretly begins keeping Leadbeater’s Possums in his backyard in Blackburn
  • 1971
    LbP declared the Victorian State Faunal Emblem, alongside the Helmeted Honeyeater
  • 1972
    LbP first bred in captivity by Des Hackett
  • 2006
    Death of the last Leadbeater’s Possums in captivity in Australia
  • February 2009
    Black Saturday bushfires destroy around 45% of reserved LbP habitat and population numbers in the wild are halved.
  • 2010
    Kasia died peacefully in her sleep at just over 10 years of age at Metro Zoo, Toronto, Canada. At the time she was the last captive Leadbeater’s Possum anywhere in the world.
  • 2011
    DSE and Parks Victoria ‘rescue’ the last 3 LbP’s from Lake Mountain (a population of around 300 having been destroyed in the 2009 fires) after a feral cat is filmed hunting near their nest box and a number of animals had ‘disappeared’. They are taken to Healesville Sanctuary. One later dies from unknown causes in its enclosure.
  • 2012
    Healesville Sanctuary
    begins a new Captive Breeding Program for lowland Leadbeater’s Possums from Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve (NCR). The program’s “founders”, wild possums, were brought into captivity to establish a breeding population. The breeding program is based only on the genetically distinct Yellingbo population of Leadbeater’s Possums. (June 2022, no breeding has been reported)
  • July 2013
    Two Lake Mountain LbP’s are put on display in the Nocturnal House at Healesville Sanctuary after DEPI refuses to issue a permit to return them to their wild habitat.
  • August 2013
    Professor David Lindenmayer calls on the Victorian Government to expand the current LbP Reserve System to include all LbP remaining habitat in the Central Highlands (including areas currently available for clearfell logging) in a new Great Forest National Park.
  • April 2015
    EPBC (Federal) Conservation Status uplisted to Critically Endangered.
  • July 2015
    Action Plan states that revised Recovery Plan will be in place by mid-2016
  • November 2017
    The first hearing in the Possums’ Case in the Federal Court.
  • June 2019
    The full hearing of the Possums’ Case over three weeks in the Federal Court, Melbourne
  • June 2019
    Federal Conservation Status confirmed as Critically Endangered following an unsuccessful application to downlist by an industry lobby group. FLbP lobbies for release of revised Recovery Plan
  • May 2020
    Judgment in the Possums’ Case in favour of Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum on all counts.
  • June 2020
    Bunnings announces that it will no longer retail VicForests’ timber as a result of the court decision.
  • August 2020
    Final Orders in the Possums’ Case including declarations of unlawful logging and injunctions preventing further logging in 66 coupes.
  • September 2020
    VicForests lodges appeal on 31 grounds.
  • October 2020
    Translocation trial of Lowland LbP to Wallaby Creek in Kinglake National Park. After early indications of success, trial abandoned due to predation by a cat and remaining animals returned to Yellingbo.
  • April 2021
    VicForests appeal heard in Sydney.
  • May 2021
    VicForests appeal allowed on one ground. Other findings of fact were not disturbed and the award of costs against VicForests was upheld.
  • June 2021
    FLbP filed application for Special Leave to Appeal to the High Court.
  • September 2021
    Again, FLbP lobbies minister for release of revised Recovery Plan
  • November 2021
    A second translocation trial established at a site north-east of Mansfield.
  • December 2021
    Application for Special Leave to Appeal to the High Court refused.
  • June 2022
    FLbP lobbies new Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, for release of revised Recovery Plan
Friends-of-Leadbeaters-Possum_Leadie-Meets-Greg-Hunt-2015

On the 22nd April 2015, the Federal Minister for the Environment announced that the Leadbeater’s Possum would be listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ and a Recovery Plan would be released. As at January 2024 no recovery plan has been officially published.
Photograph: c/- a committed supporter