November 11, 2013. Thomas O’Byrne.
Perched 25 metres off the ground upon a mountain ash tree, Hannah Patchett’s new home lacks the luxuries enjoyed by most 20-year-olds.
But the bright red treehouse, high in the Toolangi State Forest 80 kilometres north-east of Melbourne, was designed for a purpose – to highlight the plight of Victoria’s faunal emblem.
The spartan treehouse is located in a small pocket of old-growth mountain ash forest that forms vital habitat for the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum.
”I’m calling for an end to logging in the area, so that the Leadbeater’s possum has a chance at avoiding extinction,” Ms Patchett said.
She has pledged to remain in the 14-square-metre home until the state government announces plans for protecting the endangered creature. The Department of Environment and Primary Industries lists logging as a threat to the marsupial’s diminished population.
The deadly Black Saturday bushfires also ravaged about 45 per cent of a 30,500-hectare reserve, established in 2008, in which the possum lives.
With the possum population on course for another severe reduction, the state government in June set up an advisory group to aid population recovery efforts.
Environment Minister Ryan Smith announced $1 million in funding to implement proposals stemming from the group’s ideas.
Friends of Leadbeater’s possum representative Steve Meacher, who has helped inform the group, said this was the last chance to save the possum. ”It’s time to get serious if we really intend to save the state’s faunal emblem.”