The evolution of the ‘naked dart’
On April 3rd, 1961 Leadbeater’s Possums was discovered at Cambarville and Tommy’s Bend, not far from Marysville, in Victoria’s Central Highland Mountain Ash eucalypt forests.
Geologist Eric Wilkinson, along with two colleagues, had ventured to Cambarville as members of the Mammal Survey Group, looking for Greater Gliders On the evening of April 3, Eric ventured alone not far from the main Marysville-Woods Point Road, near The Big Tree which is only several hundred metres from the old Cambarville logging township. With a torch he looked into the surrounding wattle trees and vegetation and spotted a Leadbeater’s Possum which he recognised by its distinctive tail, having seen specimens in the Melbourne Museum, where he worked. Later that evening, as they approached Marysville on the way home, a bird flew across the road and they stopped the car. Shining their torches into the trees they saw a second Leadbeater’s Possum! Eric returned to Tommy’s Bend the following week with his camera and a new flash and succeeded in capturing the first ever photographs of a Leadbeater’s Possum.
Extensive searches since then have found the existing population in the Central Highlands. However, the availability of suitable habitat is critical: forest must contain all three essential components, dense vegetation (connectivity) with big, old hollow-bearing trees (for nesting) and wattles (for feeding on sap). Conservation efforts for Leadbeater’s Possum involve protection of remaining old growth trees, and maintenance of mature stands that are allowed to develop hollows and provide future habitat.
Eric Wilkinson Reminisces
Eric Wilkinson discusses the rediscovery of the Leadbeater’s Possum at the annual Rediscovery Day picnic at Cambarville in 2015