By Maggie Riddington
It's been several months since a rare spot-tailed quoll was sighted in the forests on the southern slopes of Mt Baw Baw, and the Victorian government is still yet to implement any permanent protection for the animal.
Milan Stupar, a lawyer and avid hiker, made the rare discovery on April 25 this year. He had been searching for quolls for years with no luck so he was elated when he captured footage of one on his remote-sensor camera placed in the Erica State Forest near Mt Baw Baw. But it was a bittersweet discovery, because logging was occurring in its habitat, just a stone's throw from where the sighting was made.
Quolls are an endangered species ‒ their population has undergone massive declines since European colonisation. They have huge home ranges of up to 5,000 hectares and rely on large areas of intact habitat. The biggest threat to the survival of endangered spot-tailed quolls are habitat clearing, fragmentation and disturbance1, e.g. timber harvesting (logging)2.
So when the community learned that logging was ongoing in quoll habitat they contacted the Victorian environment minister's office calling for the quoll's immediate protection. On May 8, the minister announced on Facebook that the sighting had been verified and "ongoing measures to protect its habitat from timber harvesting will be finalised in coming days."
But a few days went by, with no further announcements.
Later, in an article published in The Age, the environment minister called the quoll a 'national treasure' and VicForests even committed to 'willingly' help set up a permanent protection zone.3
As they should! Because in the Central Highlands, the government is required to protect 500 hectares of habitat in a 'Special Protection Zone' (SPZ) whenever a spot-tailed quoll is found. These 'Special Protection Zones' are designed to minimise impacts on endangered species, and given that logging and habitat loss are the biggest threats to the viability of the species, it is crucial that this sighting is permanently protected in a 500 hectare SPZ, and swiftly.
But months later and we're still waiting.
Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH) is a volunteer group and FoE Australia affiliate that surveys for wildlife in the forests of Victoria's Central Highlands in order to save areas of forest from being logged. Find out more at wotch.org.au and www.facebook.com/vicwotch
Published in Chain Reaction #133, September 2018. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia. www.foe.org.au/cr133