This week’s assignment of ‘endangered’ status to the greater glider may surprise many Australians, but for experts it’s hardly unexpected.
On Tuesday, Australia’s environment minister Tanya Plibersek accepted advice from the government’s threatened species scientific committee to ‘uplist’ the conservation status of the southern and central greater glider (Petauroides volans), a large marsupial that calls forests along Australia’s east coast home.
The greater glider was first listed as vulnerable in 2016, and was considered one species – P. volans. But since 2020, experts consider the glider to be at least three distinct species.
P. volans inhabits forests from Proserpine in the Whitsunday region of Queensland down the continent’s east coast to the forested areas surrounding Melbourne, Victoria. P. minor occupies the wet-dry tropical region near Townsville and Cairns north-eastern Australia, and has been now added to the threatened species list as ‘vulnerable’.
A third species – P. armillatus – is considered vulnerable by Queensland’s government, and likely faces the same pressures as the others.
“The taxonomy of the gliders is not completely resolved as yet,” explains Professor David Lindenmayer of the Australian National University, Canberra. “There may be up to five species of greater gliders, and it’s unlikely that any of them will be secure in number.
“We’re going to have to work hard to make sure that we can conserve all of those species because it’s all an important part of Australia’s natural heritage.”