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Healesville Sanctuary

Tiny possums complete the puzzle at Healesville Sanctuary

9 January 2019

Healesville Sanctuary is celebrating the recent birth of seven critically endangered Mountain Pygmy-possums – an important milestone with only around 2000 left in the world.

With climate change presenting a significant threat to the remaining wild populations of these possums, Zoos Victoria has been working with the Mountain Pygmy-possum Recovery Team to develop an emergency response strategy.

“The strategy’s goal is to understand these tiny possums - everything from diet and behaviour to breeding preference and social structure, so we can help protect them in the future, ” said Zoos Victoria Reproductive Biologist Dr Marissa Parrott.

Mountain Pygmy-possums are Australia’s only true hibernating marsupial, which live in alpine regions and weigh as little as 35 grams, making them a unique and fascinating species. Determining the possums’ special requirements, such as annual hibernation in captivity, has been a key focus.

After more than a decade of work, the last piece of the puzzle was to successfully breed wild females in captivity.

”The arrival of these joeys is a breakthrough as we have had low breeding success with wild females in the past,” Dr Parrott said.

“We now have confidence that we can breed and care for these beautiful possums and have a successful toolkit in place if the situation in the wild worsens or there is a catastrophic event, like a major bushfire, in the future.”

Zoos Victoria works as part of the Mountain Pygmy-possum Recovery Program, which takes a collaborative approach to protecting and recovering the species.