The Mountain Pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus, is Australia’s only hibernating marsupial. There are thought to be fewer than 2000 Mountain Pygmy-possums left in the wild, and the species is listed as Critically Endangered.
All three populations occur in the alpine and subalpine regions of periglacial rock scree and boulderfields: in the Bogong High Plains/Mt Hotham and Mt Buller in Victoria and Mt Kosciusko in New South Wales. The populations are genetically distinct and are managed separately. The possums hibernate for up to 7 months of the year and are dependent on a good blanket of snow to maintain the correct temperature over winter.
Zoos Victoria became involved in the Mountain Pygmy-possum Recovery Program in 2006. Captive breeding may be an important tool for recovering Mountain Pygmy-possums in the future. Healesville Sanctuary currently holds a research and breeding population of 45 Mountain Pygmy-possums, and has successfully bred young over the past 10 years.
The overall objective of the Mountain Pygmy-possum Recovery Program is to achieve down-listing of the Mountain Pygmy-possum from Critically Endangered nationally to a lower threat category based on 1994 IUCN Red List criteria of population size and trends, extent of occurrence, and probability of extinction.
Zoos Victoria’s key roles in the recovery of this species are to:
- Maintain a reserach population in captivity
- Assist with population monitoring programs
- Increase community awareness of the plight of the Mountain Pygmy-possum and community support for its conservation
This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. This map may not be accurate to the latest information.
Plans and publications
- Download the National Recovery Plan for the Mountain Pygmy-possum Burramys parvus, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
- Download a comprehensive overview of what Zoos Victoria is doing to assist the recovery of the Mountain Pygmy-possum (682 KB)
- DSEWPC (2010). Burramys parvus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra.
- Geiser F and Broome LS (1991) Hibernation in the Mountain Pygmy-possum Burramys parvus (Marsupialia) J. Zool. Lond. 233: 538-539.
- Hienze D, Broome L and Mansergh I (2004). A review of the ecology and conservation of the Mountain Pygmy-possum Burramys parvus. Pp. 254-267 in The Biology of Australia Possums and Gliders ed by RL Goldingay and SM Jackson. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, Sydney.
- Heinze D and Williams L (1998) The discovery of the Mountain Pygmy-possum Burramys parvus on Mt Buller, Victoria Victorian Naturalist 115: 132-134.
- Mitrovski P, Heinze D, Broom L, Hoffmann AA and Weeks AR (1997). Genetic fragmentation despite high levels of variation in populations of the Mountain Pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus, in alpine Australia.
- Osborne MJ, Norman JA Christidis L and Mauuary ND (2000). Genetic distinctness of isolated populations of an endangered marsupial, the Mountain Pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus. Molecular Biology 9: 609-613.
- These tiny possums are the only Australian marsupial that hibernates over winter – beneath the snow!