Wednesday 2 November 2016


The Greater Glider ( Petauroides voluns) with its two northern and southern subspecies, was once common across the east coast of Queensland, NSW and Victoria, from sea level to around 1,200m elevation.

Now, after a comprehensive 20-year monitoring program in conservation reserves, state forests and a range of forest types and ages, the Federal government has taken the Scientific Committee's advice and listed Greater Glider as a Vulnerable species under the  Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

The glider, a pretty animal, might easily have raised the same awareness and public interest as the koala, only being a shy, dedicated nocturnal, hollow-dependent animal, it is rarely seen by anyone not out at night looking for them.

Despite its name, it is a light, fragile animal, with a head and body length of just over 30 cm, large furry ears, a long tail for steering and balance, and fine bones covered by a dense weightless fluffy coat. Single young are born between March to June each year, reach sexual maturity in their second year, and have an estimated age limit of 15 years.

Greater Gliders' home range is small, between1-4 ha, to 16ha in more open forests, yet they depend on large tracts of intact forest for survival, do not inhabit small remnant forests, and will not disperse through non-native vegetation.

The gliders are absent in areas with under 6 den hollows per hectare, and are now known to need at least 160 km2 of connected native forest, with a ratio of 2-4 living old-growth hollow-bearing trees for every 2 ha, to sustain a viable population.

Also, through a high sensitivity to disturbance, and a poor ability to recover, and because most prime habitat is in areas best suited to timber production, the Scientific Committee's advice assigns a catastrophic consequence for the species by fragmentation and habitat loss through clearing, clear-fell logging and prescribed burning, and severe consequences by the current shorter rotation logging practices, frequent fires, and a gradual loss of remaining old dead stags.

In 2010 the gliders were absent from all surveyed sites after widespread state wildfires in 2009.

- Patricia Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on October 24, 2016