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Leadbeater's Possum On Critically Endangered List, Giving It Extra Protections

A tiny Australia possum will remain listed as critically endangered to ensure it remains a 'priority species' for government action, the Environment Minister has announced.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley announced on Monday that five Queensland frog species would be added to the 'critically endangered' category, including the Elegant frog, Rattling Nursery frog, Mount Elliot Nursery frog, Mountain-top Nursery frog and Bellenden Ker Nursery frog.

The White-throated Needletail bird has also been added to the vulnerable category.

The Leadbeater's possum, once believed to be extinct until the species was rediscovered in 1961, is only found in Victoria's ash forests and sub-alpine woodlands.

PHOTO: AAP.

The tiny creatures measure just a handspan in size, but it is hoped the classification will have a big impact on efforts to protect Australia's growing number of endangered species.

Ley announced the decision to maintain the possum's critically endangered status on Monday, saying it would "ensure this iconic mammal gets the attention it deserves."

The Australian Government has mobilised more than $425 million for threatened species projects, Ley said.

According to the Environment and Energy department, 106 mammal species are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered in Australia.

READ MORE: Extinction Of Tiny Aussie Rat 'Shames' Australia To The Rest Of The World

READ MORE: 'Australia's Orangutan': Urgent Calls To Protect The Vulnerable Koala

Leadbeater's possums, Victoria's faunal emblem, are part of the Regional Forestry Agreement, which is tasked with sustainable management and conservation of Australia’s native forests.

PHOTO: AAP.

Under current protection strategies, a 200-metre barrier must be in place around all nesting trees with hollows, to both protect the population and provide data on other potential unknown populations of the species, Ley said in a statement.

"I’m encouraged by the forestry industry’s willingness to engage in the possum’s survival – indeed they have invested heavily research of the possum to ensure they abide by the terms of their Regional Forestry Agreement," she said.

But the Australian Forest Products Association has called for an independent study on the Leadbeater's Possum population, claiming there was evidence to suggest their population and range was greater than in 2015 -- when the possums were first recommended for 'critically endangered' status.

CEO Ross Hampton said Ley should have focused on "getting the best science to inform future conservation efforts."

PHOTO: AAP.

“A comprehensive survey will not only provide a more accurate understanding of the Possum’s status, but also inform a whole-of-landscape approach to the conservation of this important species,” he said.

“Until such a study is completed, releasing a final Recovery Plan based on the limited science available could compromise conservation efforts and adversely impact Victoria’s forest industries, which employ thousands of people across the state."

But The Wilderness Society said that while Monday's announcement was "heartening" -- current strategies would simply not be enough to save the species from extinction.

Victorian Campaigns Manager Amelia Young said the current 200-metre exclusion zones were not enough to protect the species and said the state government should also be involved in the protection of the possum by creating the Great Forest National Park at their Mountain Ash habitat.

"It's very clear that for this animal to beat extinction, logging must be removed from its habitat," Young told 10 daily.

Young also questioned current survey methods, saying there is a risk individual possums are not only recorded as an entire colony but also being double or even triple counted.

"In any case, it's not really about numbers of possums," she said.

It is on the one hand because you need a minimum viable population, particularly of females, to try and turn the trajectory around, but if the animal doesn't have a home to live in, it's stuffed anyway.

Young said Monday's announcement also showed a number of frog species have had their status uplisted meaning they are closer to extinction than ever before.

"We must do better," she said.

"Every time we simply allow an animal to go extinct it's like ripping a page out of the book of nature."

Contact the author: vgerova@networkten.com.au