Possums in the sky – The mountain pygmy possum in 2012

Richard Snashall, 2012

Video – Possums in the sky

Five years ago, Richard Snashall joined Dr Linda Broome in Kosciuszko National Park to find out about the mountain pygmy possum – a threatened species she’s been working to save for over 25 years. That was during a major drought and possum numbers were alarmingly low.

Now, in 2012, after plenty of rain, Richard is rejoining Linda to find out about the possum’s progress. Also working with Linda is a student all the way from China, Haijing, and she’s writing a PhD about the possums.

Read more about Linda and Haijing’s work.

Transcript

Narrator – Richard Snashall

Five years ago, I joined Dr Linda Broome in Kosciuszko National Park to find out about the mountain pygmy possum – a threatened species she’s been working to save for over 25 years. That was during a major drought and possum numbers were alarmingly low.

Now, in 2012, after plenty of rain, I’m rejoining Linda to find out about the possum’s progress. Also working with Linda is a student all the way from China, Haijing, and she’s writing a PhD about the possums.

Dr Linda Broome – Senior Threatened Species Officer, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

We’re on Snow Ridge near Cabramurra, a couple of kilometres out of Cabramurra and this is a huge basalt boulder field on top of the hill that we didn’t know existed until two years ago. We did trap it last October and at this site we got 92 possums which is the highest numbers we’ve ever caught on any of the sites in Kosciuszko National Park.

By 2008 at Mt Blue Cow we got down to one female possum and it was really very worrying, and at Charlotte Pass the numbers had dropped by 30 per cent as well.

The numbers at the southern sites just in the last year, last November, had picked up again after the drought, following the two years of rain, which was a great relief. But it just shows us how susceptible they are to drought and prolonged dry periods.

Haijing Shi – PhD student, UNSW

The mountain pygmy possum is a quite endangered animal, it’s similar to the Chinese giant panda, so it’s quite interesting. I’m really enjoying my study.

Narrator – Richard Snashall

So with the traps all set, we’ll return in the morning to hopefully find and examine some healthy possums.

Dr Linda Broome

Oh look, it’s a nice morning. It’s quite good, let’s see how many possums we’ve got today.

Yeah, it’s a possum! A bit sleepy.

After this last year, I was getting really worried and we’ve started looking into doing a captive breeding program, which we will still do because the prognosis is that we are going to get more of these extended drought periods.

If I’d seen this area 25 years ago I would have said, “Yes, there’s a possibility of possums being here.” There’s always something new to find and it just goes to show you that you should never stop looking.

These animals are so precious. Look at this rough, rocky habitat and you’ve got this gorgeous little creature that lives here and is so well adapted to the alpine environment, and I never cease to marvel at them every time I trap them.