EEG surveys find Potoroos and save rainforest

he endangered Long-footed Potoroos have been discovered by an EEG volunteer in mixed rainforest scheduled for clearfelling in the Bonang River headwaters on the Errinundra Plateau. This should give the area short term protection.

Ben, an intrepid, winter-hardy EEG volunteer, discovered the animals during a survey of the forest islands in the clearfelled catchment in July. Survey Road was pushed in to the heart of this National Estate forest during the early 90s. It’s thick mixed rainforest and old growth were clearly prime habitat for threatened Potoroos, Quolls and the large forest owls.

Despite constant protests and blockades, most of this area has been clearfelled to bare earth and stumps over the past four years. It again shows how abysmally inadequate government protection measures are for threatened species.

Blindfolds issued to DSE fauna staff

So why hadn’t the DSE found the Potoroos before now? Staff are discouraged from surveying for threatened species where their protection could upset the logging interests of their fellow DSE forestry workers. It’s a conflict of interests, but Flora and Fauna staff will hopefully have this area protect when they have verified our finds.

It should not be left up to unfunded community groups like EEG to do this critically important work. With yet another budget cut for Flora and Fauna, even less work for threatened species will be carried out .

Potoroos drown in sea of regrowth

Most of this upper catchment’s forest has been destroyed and will be managed from now on as a huge single species eucalyptus farm for chip and wood production. Potoroos rely on closed old growth understorey and thick rainforest but those will be left in two island pockets of rainforest, surrounded by habitat perfectly suited to foxes.

What’s a Potoroo?

The Long-footed Potoroo, first recorded by scientists in 1980, is a small kangaroo-like animal and one of the Australia’s rarest mammals. It lives solely on fungi and requires wetter forests to survive. East Gippsland is its stronghold but two of the major threats to this species are logging and burning; two favoured activities carried out by DSE forestry.

How are they found?

Potoroos are identified using sticky traps that catch the hairs of the animal as it investigates a food bait. These hairs are then analysed by microscope to determine the species.

Why only short-term protection?

As all Potoroos identified, must be protected, it’s a problematic species for the DSE who are legally bound to give trees to the industry, but only morally bound to protect trees that make up a threatened species’ home. The DSE is currently trying to show Potoroos can live in harmony with bulldozed forest. While these plans are being hatched, there can be no long term security for this species.

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