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Stonefly faces extinction after 'bad government call'

An insect with a "remarkable" life expectancy faces extinction after officials rejected an application to further protect its habitat, conservationists say.


A supplied undated image obtained Friday, March 17, 2023 shows a Mount Donna Buang wingless stonefly in Victoria. Image AAP

A critically endangered stonefly, which can outlive most other insects, may become extinct after the Victorian government made an "incredibly disappointing" decision.


That's the claim from the Victorian National Parks Association, which was frustrated on Monday after the government rejected an application for the Mount Donna Buang Wingless Stonefly to be granted a critical habitat determination.


The determination would have meant long-term protection for the stonefly, which was remarkable because of its lifespan of more than two years, the association said.


Houseflies live up to 25 days and many insects for less than a year.


The government instead went against the opinion of its own scientists who argued in favour of the further protection measure, the association said.


"This is an incredibly disappointing decision by the state's environment department to reject advice from its own scientific advisors and the solid scientific basis of the critical habitat application," association campaigner Jordan Crook said.


"The stonefly lives in a small area susceptible to major threats including climate change, fire, water pollution and visitation, meaning it needs special management.


"A critical habitat determination for the wingless stonefly would have started a process to give this remarkable creature the extra care and effort required to protect it from extinction."


The stonefly faced extinction following the decision, which was contrary to decades' worth of scientific work showing it has declined by 80 per cent despite being protected in a national park, the association said.


The Mount Donna Buang Wingless Stonefly has evolved over millions of years to not need its wings.


It sheds them to live beside streams on the mountain about an hour and a half from Melbourne, drills down into stream edges in summer and at other times lives in tree bark.


The stonefly is among 500 critically endangered species in Victoria, while there are 2000 threatened species in the state.


"It's time the Victorian government stepped up and used all of the tools available, like critical habitat determinations, to protect the growing list of threatened species," Mr Crook said.


The Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action has been contacted for comment.


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