Shh! Have you seen a forest fairy?
Not many people have – the Leadbeater’s Possum Gymnobelideus leadbeateri is small, speedy and endangered.
Less than a hand-span in length, Leadbeater’s Possums live in the forests not far from Melbourne. They sleep with their families in hollow trees during the day and run through the understorey at night, hunting for insects and sweet nectar.
Despite their appearance, Leadbeater's Possums are quite cranky fairies: each family fiercely defends its territory from other possums. They call to each other with a hissing ‘ts-ts-ts’ and use their club-shaped tails to carry bark to build their nests.
Unfortunately these unique animals are threatened due to:
- Loss of hollow-bearing trees – Leadbeater’s Possums need hollow trees in which to build their bark nests. These hollows take more than 150 years to develop in living trees. The number of old trees with suitable hollows has decreased due to logging and wildfire
- Wildfire – fires can burn through large areas of the montane ash forests which are home to Leadbeater’s Possums. The recent Black Saturday bushfire burnt 45% of high-quality Leadbeater's habitat in the permanent reserve system
- Loss of suitable habitat – land clearing and changes in fire patterns mean that there is less habitat available for Leadbeater's Possums. This can lead to smaller and fragmented populations of possums
Saving Leadbeater's Possum
Once thought to be extinct, Leadbeater's Possum was rediscovered in 1961 and became Victoria's faunal emblem.
Zoos Victoria is working to change the fate of threatened species and is committed to Fighting Extinction – we will ensure that no more Victorian terrestrial vertebrate species become extinct. The continuing story of the Leadbeater’s Possum is symbolic of Zoos Victoria's commitment to saving our local fauna.
How can you help?
Want to fight extinction with us? There are many ways you can help save Leadbeater's Possums and other threatened species:
- Wipe for Wildlife - Australians currently flush millions of trees down the toilet each year! By making the switch to recycled toilet paper, you can help save our environment and wildlife
- Visit one of our three zoos - Zoos Victoria is a not-for-profit organisation - we rely on the support of our visitors and members. By visiting Healesville Sanctuary, Melbourne Zoo or Werribee Open Range Zoo, you will be supporting our work to fight extinction
- Join Friends of Leadbeater's Possum and volunteer on one of their activities
- Choose timber and paper products that come from well-managed and legally logged forest
- Act Wild - Join the growing number of Wild Activists taking action for local wildlife. You can get grubby, get creative and find out about local conservation events
This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. This map may not be accurate to the latest information.
Plans and publications
- Download a comprehensive overview of what Zoos Victoria is doing to save the Leadbeater's Possum (587 KB)
- Harley, D. 2013. The application of Zoos Victoria’s ‘Fighting Extinction’ commitment to the conservation of Leadbeater’s Possum Gymnobelideus leadbeateri. The Victorian Naturalist. Vol 129 (5): 175-180
- DSEWPC (2010). Gymnobelideus leadbeateri in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra.
- The Leadbeater's Possum was missing in action for over 50 years before being rediscovered in 1961.
- Healesville Sanctuary
- Werribee Open Range Zoo
- Melbourne Zoo