Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Leadbeater's Possum Recovery Plan - 1997-2002 (Macfarlane, M., J. Smith & K. Lowe, 1997) [Recovery Plan].
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.5 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011j) [Admin Guideline].
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
State Government
    Documents and Websites
VIC:Flora and Fauna Guarantee Action Statement 62 - Leadbeater's Possum Gymnobelideus leadbeateri (Macfarlane, M., K.W. Lowe & J. Smith, 2003) [State Action Plan].
State Listing Status
VIC: Listed as Threatened (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Victoria): May 2014 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Endangered (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
VIC: Listed as Endangered (Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria: 2013 list)
Scientific name Gymnobelideus leadbeateri [273]
Family Petauridae:Diprotodonta:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author McCoy, 1867
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Gymnobelideus leadbeateri

Common name: Leadbeater's Possum

Leadbeater's Possum is an arboreal marsupial with soft grey fur. It has a prominent dark brown stripe along its back and is pale underneath. Its ears are thin, large and rounded and it grows up to 17 cm in length. Its thick tail grows to 18 cm in length (Cronin 1991; Strahan 1998).

The present distribution of Leadbeater's Possum extends for less than one degree of latitude and longitude near the central highlands of Victoria, at altitudes between 400–1200 m above sea level (asl) (Lindenmayer et al. 1989), with an outlier population at Cockatoo Swamp near Yellingbo (Smales 1994). Bioclimatic modeling, using historical and current records, predicts the species may occur in the Macedon area, approximately 990 km further west (Larwill et al. 1996; Lindenmayer et al. 1990a). Fossil material of probable Pleistocene age has been found at two sites in New South Wales (NSW) and several sites in Victoria (Lindenmayer et al. 1990a).

A wildfire in 1939 created suitable habitat for the Leadbeater’s Possum’s current range and led to a peak in population numbers, estimated to be about 7500 individuals in the early 1980s. This population estimate is predicted to undergo a 90% reduction by 2025 (Smith 1995). A number of population viability analyses have also been conducted. Modelling of discrete populations have indicated that populations of less than 50 individuals have a low probability of long-term survival, while populations of over 200 have a high probability of surviving 100+ years (Lindenmayer et al. 1993). Metapopulation analysis has been used to refine these predictions by considering patch size, connectivity (Lindenmayer & Lacey 1995; Lindenmayer & Possingham 1995a) and other factors such as spatial scale (Lindenmayer 2000; McCarthy & Lindenmayer 2000), wildfire (Lindenmayer & Possingham 1995b) and logging (Lindenmayer & Possingham 1996).

The primary habitat of Leadbeater's Possum is regenerating or mixed-age cool, moist, montane forest, dominated by Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) and containing a variety of understorey trees and shrubs including Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) and Mountain Hickory Wattle (Acacia obliquinervia) (Smith 1984a). Population densities are highest in young regrowth areas (Nelson et al. 1996). The outlying population at Yellingbo Nature Reserve is in Mountain Swamp Gum (Eucalyptus camphora) dominated swamp woodland (Smales 1994).

The main factors determining the distribution and abundance of populations within the primary habitat, appears to be correlated with the presence of Acacia spp. for food and the abundance of suitable nest hollows in old trees which may be living or dead (Smith & Lindenmayer 1988). These habitat factors are highly correlated with regrowth after fire (Lindenmayer et al. 1991c; Smith & Lindenmayer 1992).

The breeding requirements for Leadbeater's Possum are an abundant supply of gum-producing Acacia spp. trees for food and old hollow-bearing trees suitable for nesting (Smith 1984a; Smith & Lindenmayer 1988). Smith and Lindenmayer (1988) found that population densities increased with increasing numbers of potential nest trees (PNT), with sites of less than 4.2 PNT per 3 ha not supporting populations of the species. Nests ranged from 2–46 m above ground and were higher in living trees than dead trees. Most nests were accessed by holes, either excavated by the possums or from natural decay or shed branches in the main trunk, and only 15% were in hollow branches and 12% in fissures (Smith & Lindenmayer 1988). The use of nest-boxes as a possible substitute for natural hollows has been evaluated and considered to be less desirable for the species than conserving natural nest trees or even creating hollows in natural trees (Lindenmayer et al. 1991b).

Leadbeater Possum births were recorded for most of the year in captivity, but in the wild births peaked during April to June and October to December. Litter sizes averaged 1.6 in the wild (1.4 in captivity) and gestation is under 20 days (probably 15–17). Young remain in the pouch for 80–93 days, and in the nest for a further 5–40 days (Smith 1984a).

There are alternative opinions on the social structure of this species. According to data collected at Cambarville in 1978–79, adults formed monogamous pairs, female juvenile dispersal occurred before male dispersal and the previous litter of juveniles could remain with the adults for some time. Aggression between females was high and resident females attacked all other females. Non-paired males were tolerated. Mortality was highest among juvenile females (Smith 1984a, 1995). In a later study of radio-tagged individuals in the same area, many animals used 2 to 6 trees during any given tracking session and in several instances two or more adult females were observed occupying the same nest (Lindenmayer & Meggs 1996).

The diet of Leadbeater's Possum consists of arthropods, Acacia gums, nectar, manna and honeydew. Arthropods were relatively constant in the diet throughout the year but contributed less than 20% of dietary energy. Plant exudates were less prevalent in the diet during winter (Smith 1984b).

Leadbeater's Possum is sedentary and territorial, travelling only relatively short distances between den trees and feeding areas, or between alternative den trees (Lindenmayer & Meggs 1996; Smith 1984a). Female dispersal is greater than male dispersal (Smith 1984a).

Significant threats to Leadbeater's Possum include logging and fire. The supply of suitable nest trees also appears to be a major limiting factor for the species’ persistence in an area, and replacement is generally slower than the loss of such trees (Lindenmayer et al. 1990b; Lindenmayer et al.1997).

Trend modelling of the abundance of large trees with cavities projects a severe shortage of large trees with cavities by 2039 that will continue until at least 2067 (Lindenmayer et al. 2012). This large cavity tree crisis in Mountain Ash forests is a product of: (1) the prolonged time required (120 years) for initiation of cavities; and (2) repeated past wildfires and widespread logging operations (Lindenmayer et al. 2012).

Management options for Leadbeater's Possum centre around the predictions of future habitat change and protecting the species' highly specific habitat requirements (Attiwill 1995; Lindenmayer 1995; Lindenmayer & Norton 1993; Macfarlane & Loyn 1994). Lindenmayer and colleagues (2012) identify the following management options to better protect the recruitment process of large trees with cavities in the central highlands of Victoria:

  • The continued protection of all remaining previously unlogged and unburned (old growth) forest.
  • The continued exclusion of salvage logging in old growth forest that was burned in the 2009 wildfires.
  • The protection of substantial parts of the, 40 000 ha of remaining unburned areas of 1939 regrowth forest because these stands are now the next nearest existing age class to old growth forest.
  • Any continued logging operations must be excluded from those areas where there are existing large trees scattered throughout forests of 1939 regrowth.

Artificial hollows

Harley (2006) demonstrated that Leadbeater's Possum exhibits high rates of nest box occupancy in lowland swamp forest settings, especially in areas of existing colonies where the vegetation structure is suitable for box installation. Nest boxes can be an effective means of increasing den-site availability for the possum, and therefore have considerable potential to contribute to the species’ conservation in the short term (Harley 2006). Such measures should be applied in conjunction with altered forestry practises that better provide for the retention and future provision of mature hollow-bearing trees (Harley 2006).

Government funded projects

Friends of Leadbeater's Possum Inc (Victoria) received $14 150 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2006–07 for the use of nest boxes to provide replacement den sites, and the implementation of long-term habitat enhancement and associated population monitoring in line with the recovery plan. Macedon Range Conservation Society (Victoria) received $5990 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2000–01 for a survey to locate this species in the Macedon Range, and to provide nest boxes aimed at establishing habitats. Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater Inc (Victoria) received $12 585 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2005–06, part of which was for the control of herbaceous weeds; revegetation of degraded areas adjacent to suitable habitat; and to protect both revegetated sites and sensitive habitat from herbivores.

Management documents for the Leadbeater's Possum can be found at the start of this profile. Other documents relevant to the species include:

  • The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes (Maxwell et al. 1996).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat loss and modification due to clearance of native vegetation and pasture improvements The Impact of Global Warming on the Distribution of Threatened Vertebrates (ANZECC 1991) (Dexter, E.M., A.D. Chapman & J.R. Busby, 1995) [Report].
Biological Resource Use:Logging and Wood Harvesting:Habitat disturbance due to foresty activities Leadbeater's Possum Recovery Plan - 1997-2002 (Macfarlane, M., J. Smith & K. Lowe, 1997) [Recovery Plan].
Biological Resource Use:Logging and Wood Harvesting:Habitat loss, modification and degradation due to timber harvesting Leadbeater's Possum Recovery Plan - 1997-2002 (Macfarlane, M., J. Smith & K. Lowe, 1997) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Leadbeater's Possum Recovery Plan - 1997-2002 (Macfarlane, M., J. Smith & K. Lowe, 1997) [Recovery Plan].
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Leadbeater's Possum Recovery Plan - 1997-2002 (Macfarlane, M., J. Smith & K. Lowe, 1997) [Recovery Plan].

Attiwill, P.M. (1995). Managing Leadbeater's possum in the mountain ash forests of Victoria, Australia - reply. Forest Ecology and Management. 74:233-237.

Cronin, L. (1991). Key Guide to Australian Mammals. Balgowlah, NSW: Reed Books.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2011j). Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.5. [Online]. EPBC Act policy statement: Canberra, ACT: DSEWPAC. Available from:

Harley, D.K.P. (2006). A role for nest boxes in the conservation of Leadbeater’s possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri). Wildlife Research. 33:385-395.

Larwill, S., P. Myroniuk & B. Triggs (1996). Discovery of Leadbeater's possum Gymnobelideus leadbeateri in the Macedon region, Victoria: a case study in the use of molecular genetics applied to conservation biology. In: Newsletter of the Australian Mammal Society. Nov:15. Unpublished.

Lindenmayer, D.B. (1995). Forest disturbance, forest wildlife conservation and the conservative basis for forest management in the mountain ash forests of Victoria - comment. Forest Ecology and Management. 74:223-231.

Lindenmayer, D.B. (2000). Factors at multiple scales affecting distribution patterns and their implications for animal conservation - Leadbeater's possum as a case study. Biodiversity and Conservation. 9:15-35.

Lindenmayer, D.B. & H.P. Possingham (1995a). Modelling the viability of metapopulations of the endangered Leadbeater's possum in south-eastern Australia. Biodiversity and Conservation. 4:984-1018.

Lindenmayer, D.B. & H.P. Possingham (1995b). Modelling the impacts of wildfire on the viability of metapopulations of the endangered Australian species of arboreal marsupial, Leadbeater's possum. Forest Ecology and Management. 74:197-222.

Lindenmayer, D.B. & H.P. Possingham (1996). Ranking conservation and timber management options for Leadbeater's possum in southeastern Australia using population viability analysis. Conservation Biology. 10:235-251.

Lindenmayer, D.B. & R.A. Meggs (1996). Use of den trees by Leadbeater's possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri). Australian Journal of Zoology. 44:625-638.

Lindenmayer, D.B. & R.C. Lacy (1995). Metapopulation viability of Leadbeater's possum. Gymnobelideus leadbeateri, in fragmented old-growth forests. Ecological Applications. 5:183-199.

Lindenmayer, D.B. & T.W. Norton (1993). The conservation of Leadbeater's possum in southeastern Australia and the northern spotted owl in the Pacific north-west of the USA, management issues, strategies and lessons. Pacific Conservation Biology. 1:13-18.

Lindenmayer, D.B., A.P. Smith, S.A. Craig & L.F. Lumsden (1989). A survey of the distribution of Leadbeater's possum, Gymnobelideus leadbeateri McCoy in the Central Highlands of Victoria. Victorian Naturalist. 106:174-178.

Lindenmayer, D.B., H.A. Nix, J.P. McMahon & M.F. Hutchinson (1990a). Bioclimatic modelling and wildlife conservation and management - a case study on Leadbeater's Possum Gymnobelideus leadbeateri. In: Clark, T.W. & J.H. Seebeck, eds. Management and Conservation of Small Populations. Page(s) 253-274. Illinois: Chicago Zoological Society.

Lindenmayer, D.B., M.T. Tanton & R.B. Cunningham (1991b). A critique of the use of nest boxes for the conservation of Leadbeater's Possum Gymnobelideus leadbeateri McCoy. Wildlife Research. 18:619-624.

Lindenmayer, D.B., R.B. Cunningham & C.F. Donnelly (1997). Decay and collapse of trees with hollows in eastern Australian forests: impacts on arboreal marsupials. Ecological Applications. 7:625-641.

Lindenmayer, D.B., R.B. Cunningham, M.T. Tanton & A.P. Smith (1990b). The conservation of arboreal marsupials in the montane ash forests of the Central Highlands of Vic., south-east Australia: 2. The loss of trees with hollows and its implications for the conservation of Leadbeater's possum Gymnobelideus leadbeateri. Biological Conservation. 54:133-145.

Lindenmayer, D.B., R.B. Cunningham, M.T. Tanton, H.A. Nix & A.P. Smith (1991c). The conservation of arboreal marsupials in the montane ash forests of the Central Highlands of Vic., south-east Australia: 3. The habitat requirements of Leadbeater's possum Gymnobelideus leadbeateri and models of the diversity and abundance of ar. Biological Conservation. 56:295-315.

Lindenmayer, D.B., R.C. Lacy, V.C. Thomas & T.W. Clark (1993). Predictions of impacts of changes in population size and environmental variability on Leadbeater's possum, Gymnobelideus leadbeateri McCoy (Marsupialia: Petauridae) using population viability analysis: an application of the computer program VORTEX. Wildlife Research. 20:67-86.

Lindenmayer, D.B., W. Blanchard, L. McBurney, D. Blair, S. Banks, G.E. Likens, J.F. Franklin, W.F. Laurance, J.A.R. Stein & P. Gibbons (2012). Interacting Factors Driving a Major Loss of Large Trees with Cavities in a Forest Ecosystem. Plos One. 7(10):e41864.

Macfarlane, M., J. Smith & K. Lowe (1997). Leadbeater's Possum Recovery Plan - 1997-2002. [Online]. Victoria Department of Natural Resources and Environment. Available from:

Macfarlane, M., K.W. Lowe & J. Smith (2003). Flora and Fauna Guarantee Action Statement 62 - Leadbeater's Possum Gymnobelideus leadbeateri. [Online]. Department of Sustainability and Environment. Available from:

Macfarlane, M.A. & R.H. Loyn (1994). Management for the conservation of Leadbeater's possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri) - a reply. Pacific Conservation Biology. 1:84-86.

Maxwell, S., A.A. Burbidge & K. Morris (1996). The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. [Online]. Wildlife Australia, Environment Australia. Available from:

McCarthy, M.A. & D.B. Lindenmayer (2000). Spatially-correlated extinction in a metapopulation model of Leadbeater's possum. Biodiversity and Conservation. 9:47-63.

Nelson, J.L., K.A. Cherry & K.W. Porter (1996). The effect of edges on the distribution of arboreal marsupials in the ash forests of the Victorian Central Highlands. Australian Forestry. 59: 189-198.

Smales, I.J. (1994). The discovery of Leadbeater's possum, Gymnobelideus leadbeateri McCoy, resident in a lowland swamp woodland. Victorian Naturalist. 111:178-182.

Smith, A. (1984b). Diet of Leadbeaters possum, Gymnobelideus leadbeateri (Marsupialia). Australian Wildlife Research. 11:265-273.

Smith, A.P. (1984a). Demographic consequences of reproduction, dispersal and social interaction in a population of Leadbeater's Possum. In: Smith, A. & I. Hume, eds. Possums and Gliders. Page(s) 359-373. Chipping Norton, NSW: Surrey Beatty & Sons.

Smith, A.P. (1995). Leadbeater's possum. In: Strahan, R., ed. The Mammals of Australia. Page(s) 224-226. Sydney: Reed Books.

Smith, A.P. & D. Lindenmayer (1988). Tree hollow requirements of Leadbeater's Possum and other possums and gliders in timber production ash forests of the Victorian Central Highlands. Australian Wildlife Research. 15:347-362.

Smith, A.P. & D.B. Lindenmayer (1992). Forest succession and habitat management for Leadbeater's possum in the State of Victoria, Australia. Forest Ecology and Management. 49:311-332.

Strahan, R., ed. (1998). The Mammals of Australia, Third Edition. Sydney, NSW: Australian Museum and Reed New Holland.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Gymnobelideus leadbeateri in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Wed, 24 Sep 2014 15:09:36 +1000.