Citizen scientists have discovered about 60 larger endangered gliders in dozens of Victorian areas that have been targeted for logging.
The largest glider – one of the largest gliding mammals in the world – was so Listed as endangered earlier this yearjust six years after it first appeared on the National List of Threatened Species.
Activists say they found about 60 animals during a nighttime survey conducted Sunday, which should now trigger the terms of a temporary injunction to prevent the felling of trees in the 12 coupes where the gliders were found.
Sue McKinnon, chair of the Kinglake Friends of the Forest expedition group and a surveyor said: “It gave me hope that we can still find this threatened species. Larger gliders have gone from being considered popular only six years ago to being endangered.”
“The abundance of gliders discovered last night by citizen scientists is evidence of a disturbing truth: More gliders and VicForests want the same forests, and the few remaining with large, ancient trees.”
The The Victorian government plans to phase out deforestation in indigenous forests by 2030but activists argue that this is too slow to save the glider.
“This doubling may have happened in just 20 years,” McKinnon said. “But this government said they would log in for another eight years. These lumberjacks want the same forest that larger gliders need. These are the only places left for gliders.”
Historic logging left a patchwork of habitat, she said, but the spaces between previously recorded areas are now a target. “It has almost come to the point where the forest is being liquidated.”
When the federal government raised the glider’s greatest threat level to danger, official advice in Victoria said the cumulative effects of black summer bushfires, logging and climate change would put pressure on marsupials’ remaining habitat.
Kinglake Friends of the Forest and Environment East Gippsland has an ongoing case against VicForests in the state Supreme Court, where they argue that the government-owned business has not properly surveyed the threatened species.
In this case, Judge Melinda Richards issued a temporary injunction regarding logging areas where gliders are detected.
On Sunday evening, 66 citizen scientists entered 12 districts that appear either in the Victorian government’s current timber harvesting scheme, or in its proposed scheme.
Areas in Toolangi, Black Range, Warburton, Wombat, Alberton West, and East Gippsland were surveyed.
Surveyors have also found swamp wallabies, yellow gliders, owls, ring possums, giant earthworms, harpsichords, and baby bats.
in August , The Victorian government passed laws To toughen penalties for activists trying to prevent logging activities, these changes will take effect next year.
But Natalie Hogan, a lawyer with Environmental Justice Australia, said the changes also mean that citizen scientists who conduct survey work without permission face fines of up to $11,000 – more than three times the previous $3,500 penalty.
Hogan said these changes also introduced broader search and seizure powers as well as the ability for authorities to issue a ban on individuals entering the areas in the future.
She said citizen scientists have a critical role in surveying wildlife, but that these people now face “cruel and disproportionate punishments”.
“Our vital ecosystems currently face increasing threats from logging and climate change, all in the wake of devastating wildfires, and citizen science is more important than ever,” she said.
Guardian Australia has requested comment from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and VicForests in Victoria.