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State faunal emblem

By His Excellency the Governor of the State of Victoria and its Dependencies in the Commonwealth of Australia

With the unique story behind Leadbeater’s Possum “returning from extinction” and being incredibly rare, in 1971 it was made the official faunal emblem of Victoria. This was printed in the Victoria Government Gazette on March 10, 1971 that on Tuesday March 2, 1971 Gymnobelideus leadbeateri McCoy was adopted as the official mammalian emblem, alongside the similarly rare Helmeted Honeyeater, Meliphaga cassidix (Gould).

In March 1971, a significant event unfolded in the realm of Australian wildlife conservation: the proclamation of Leadbeater’s Possum as Victoria’s official faunal emblem. This declaration marked a pivotal moment in recognizing the importance of preserving and protecting this unique species, which had made a remarkable comeback from the brink of extinction.

Leadbeater’s Possum, scientifically known as Gymnobelideus leadbeateri McCoy, had long been recognized for its extraordinary rarity and the compelling narrative of its rediscovery. Initially presumed extinct, this small marsupial was rediscovered in the mountain ash forests of Victoria, Australia, in the early 20th century, capturing the imagination of conservationists and scientists alike. Its status as a “living fossil” added to its mystique and scientific significance.

On March 10, 1971, the Victoria Government Gazette officially announced Leadbeater’s Possum as the state’s faunal emblem. This proclamation symbolized Victoria’s commitment to wildlife conservation and habitat protection. The decision to designate Leadbeater’s Possum as the official mammalian emblem reflected a recognition of its ecological importance and cultural significance within the region.

The proclamation also highlighted another critically endangered species, the Helmeted Honeyeater (Meliphaga cassidix Gould), which was adopted alongside Leadbeater’s Possum. This dual recognition underscored the government’s dedication to preserving biodiversity and safeguarding the habitats of these emblematic species.

The inclusion of Leadbeater’s Possum as Victoria’s faunal emblem served as a catalyst for increased conservation efforts and public awareness initiatives. It drew attention to the fragile ecosystems that support these species and underscored the importance of proactive conservation measures to ensure their survival.

Since its designation as the state’s faunal emblem, Leadbeater’s Possum has continued to face numerous threats, including habitat loss, logging, and climate change. However, its status as an emblematic species has inspired ongoing conservation efforts, including habitat restoration projects and captive breeding programs aimed at bolstering its population and ensuring its long-term survival.

Overall, the proclamation of Leadbeater’s Possum as Victoria’s faunal emblem in 1971 stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of conservation and the ongoing struggle to protect Australia’s unique and precious biodiversity.

  • 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_Proclamation-Leadbeaters-Possum-Victorian-State-Emblem-1971

Proclamation announcement, Victoria Government Gazette, March 1971
Image: c/- Victorian Govt archives

Leadbeaters Possum and Heho Square Feb21 v1

Commemorative artwork celebrating the 50th anniversary of the proclamation in March 2021.
Image: c/- A Fletcher.