Hope for the survival of mountain pygmy possums


It is hoped that a new breeding facility for 14 critically endangered mountain pygmy possums will help save the species from extinction.

The purpose-built facility at Secret Creek Sanctuary in Lithgow, west of NSW’s Blue Mountains, now houses the group in hopes they will breed there before being released back into the rainforests of the lowlands.

Completing the facility is a key step in a plan to save the species from extinction, with fewer than 3,000 left in the wild.

The project is led by the University of NSW, in partnership with wildlife foundations and government conservation programs.

It received an unexpected quarterly boost when Prague Zoo offered to inject more than $190,000 following the devastating black bushfires of summer 2019-20, which damaged parts of the alpine habitat of small opossums.

The new home consists of specially designed foraging and nesting areas in a large building with all the necessary resources to encourage the possums to enjoy life and hopefully be highly reproductive.

Hayley Bates of UNSW, School of Biological, Environmental and Earth Sciences, says the first step in the breeding project is to acclimate the possums to their new environment, including getting new foods.

“The alpine environment is changing, we have already seen a massive drop in the number of Bogong moths, an important food item for possums in the wild,” she said.

“We want to study how opossums will respond to modern changes to their environment so that when the impacts of climate change occur, we can make better-informed, science-based management decisions to protect this species in the wild.” , said Dr. Bates.

Secret Creek Sanctuary CEO Trevor Evans said the breeding facility will give the mountain pygmy opossum its first real chance at surviving climate change.

“We now have a facility that will allow these alpine opossums to adapt to an environment very different from that in which their ancestors enjoyed and thrived for millions of years.

“The breeding facility will provide the bridge to help them get back into these much more comfortable environments and survive the deadly changes that are happening in the alpine zone,” he says.


Comments are closed.