28 February 2019
Queensland is in the enviable position of being home to all seven of Australia’s gliding possums – or gliders. These are an amazing collection of species all renowned for being able to glide between trees with the aid of a membrane of skin linking the fore and hind legs.
The largest of our gliders, the greater glider, is capable of gliding up to and beyond 80 metres in horizontal distance, while the smallest, the feathertail glider, averages glides up to 14 metres.
The most commonly observed and well-known glider species is the squirrel glider. This species will glide 40 metres with little effort.
Squirrel gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis) can be found across the east coast of Australia from far north Queensland to the northern forests of Victoria.
The species is listed as Endangered in Victoria, Vulnerable in New South Wales and least concern in Queensland.
Threats to squirrel glider populations
The threatening processes impacting squirrel glider populations across its range are all too familiar:
- habitat loss
- habitat modification
- habitat fragmentation.
While the Queensland squirrel glider population is, legislatively speaking, of least concern, the issues causing its demise in the southern states are the same as those occurring in Queensland.
When we include the risks associated with the increased frequency of catastrophic events such as drought, fire and floods, the survival pressure on the species mounts even more.
“It is this fact that urges Wildlife Queensland to champion the conservation of this glider species,” said Matt Cecil, Projects Manager for Wildlife Queensland.
Building corridors, linking glider populations
The Wildlife Queensland Scenic Rim Branch has been surveying to find out where squirrel gliders can be found within the Scenic Rim local government area since 2016. The branch’s activities have brought together members of the local community to learn about gliders, their biology, threats and conservation requirements through a series of workshops and spotlighting surveys.
Now, armed with the survey data, the Wildlife Queensland Scenic Rim Branch are embarking on a journey to develop a corridor project to link isolated squirrel glider populations. This initiative will benefit greatly through public involvement and the participation of private landholders.
Building corridors will involve:
- revegetation through native tree planting and establishment
- nest box installation to provide shelter and nesting
- glider poles to help gliders move across physical barriers.
Habitat corridor projects are vital to ensuring the long-term survival of species that have limited dispersal ability across open spaces, like gliders.
- Research conducted by Goldingay & Harrison et al. (2013) suggests that isolated populations of this species will show genetic evidence of inbreeding within 10 generations or 30 years.
- Frighteningly, the authors state that a loss of genetic vigour such as this, as a result of genetic isolation, are precursors to population collapse. This is really quite alarming!
“The squirrel glider is a resilient little native animal. With concerted effort to ensure populations are linked together, we can have some confidence that the species will survive into the future,” said Matt.
HOWEVER, corridors don’t always create themselves
Follow along with the Scenic Rim Branch as they undertake this journey of corridor creation to maintain the long-term viability of the squirrel glider in the Scenic Rim. Plus … stay tuned for volunteering opportunities to get involved!
 Goldingay, R.L & Harrison, K.A et al (2013). Fine-scale genetic response to landscape change in a gliding mammal.