Greens (WA) South West MLC Diane Evers says community outrage over the destruction of trees that were home to critically endangered possums in Busselton last week to make way for a carpark shows people in the South-West want action to preserve Busselton’s natural assets and wildlife.
“I was moved when I saw the footage of the mother and joey western ringtail possums clutching the end branches of the tallest peppermint tree as the tree was slowly lopped, until they eventually made a run for it, when they had nowhere else to go,” she said.
“The mother and joey were the last of six critically endangered western ringtail possums known to occupy a small stand of mature trees, including four peppermints and a sheaok, at the corner of Duchess and West streets.
“The possum and the trees have all now been removed to make room for what will initially be a single-storey, and later multi-storey car park for the expanded Busselton Central Shopping Centre.
“It seems that there currently are no laws at a local, State or Federal government level to stop a small number of trees on that type of land zoning being cut down even though they were known to be harbouring western ringtail possums, which are listed ‘threatened’ and ‘critically endangered’ under Federal and State laws.”
Ms Evers said a zoologist who was employed in September to survey the trees identified six possums in them as well as dreys (possum nests).
“Distressing as it was to watch, it appears the zoologist followed legal protocols regarding capture, removal and releasing the possums to other trees nearby,” she said.
“I share residents’ dismay at the loss of mature trees and disturbance of an endangered species that is unique to WA’s south-west and south coasts.
“Due to drying climate, land-clearing, logging, feral species and prescribed burns negatively affecting our forests, western ringtails increasingly rely on peppermint trees in urban or suburban areas for habitat and food: if the species is to survive outside of zoos, we need development controls that protect their trees.”
Ms Evers said Greens (WA) would favour any moves at a Federal, State and local government level to increase protections for these possums and their habitat including appropriate clearing controls.