The Leadbeater's Possum
As far as is known, Leadbeater's possum Gymnobelideus leadbeateri McCoy lives only in Victoria. It is confined to the mountain ash forests of the central highlands, from Healesville and Marysville to Mt Baw Baw.
Even in the days of the early naturalists in Victoria, this possum was regarded as one of the rarer members of our fauna. McCoy's original specimens were collected in 1867 north of the Wonthaggi area of West Gippsland, and a few more were found up to 1909, when the possum was thought to be extinct. It was a great surprise to science when the species was rediscovered near Marysville in 1961.
Whilst it is scattered over a large area, individual possums are usually found in pockets of relatively high density, particularly in old trees with hollows which provide sites for nesting.
The well being of this species seems to be closely associated with the botanical succession within the mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) forests. It is important that adequate provision be made for it amongst the diverse demands on our hardwood forests.
The length of Leadbeater's Possum is about 40cm from nose to tail tip. About half of the animal is taken up by the tail. Soft, dense fur covers the body, becoming progressively longer on the distinctively club-shaped tail. The colour of the animal is a dark greyish-brown with whitish under-parts. The face is quite beautifully marked.
Unlike some of the possums close to its size, it does not have any gliding membrane.. It is a nimble species, which jumps around from branch to branch. It feeds on insects living on the foliage and under the bark of eucalypts, plant exudates, honey-dew from insects and some sap and gum. The Leadbeater's Possum breeds from February to November producing 1-2 young in a litter. The future of this species lies heavily in the hands of those governing management processes in it's native habitat.
Proclaimed 2nd March, 1971.
Government Gazette No. 20, dated 10th March, 1971.