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Healesville Sanctuary

World First Leadbeater’s Possum MRI

4 December 2018

A precious Leadbeater’s Possum from Healesville Sanctuary is doing well after undergoing world-first MRI treatment at Monash Biomedical Imaging.

“Phoenix” is one of just 11 critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possums in captivity across the globe.

Once thought to be extinct, the Leadbeater’s Possum was rediscovered in 1961 and became Victoria’s Faunal Emblem. Less than a hand-span in length, these small, speedy possums face some serious challenges in the wild, including loss of hollow bearing trees, wildfire and loss of suitable habitat.

Keepers monitor Healesville Sanctuary’s captive collection of possums through video footage and noticed some subtle but odd changes in Phoenix’s behaviour. In consultation with a team of specialists, Phoenix was diagnosed with a neurological condition and a treatment plan commenced immediately.

The MRI revealed some lesions in the brain. Lesions can be caused by a number of factors including infection.

Phoenix has finished his ongoing treatment now, he even participated in his own health care through and automatic feeder system, which dispensed his food and medication when he interacted with it. Phoenix is no longer receiving any treatment and is considered to be clinically normal again. It's been a long, slow procees and we continue to monitor him closely, but so far it's all been good news since the MRI. 

“Zoos Victoria is committed to changing the fate of threatened species by fighting wildlife extinction. Every animal in our care, no matter how big or small, is important, which is why we go to extraordinary lengths to provide them with the best of care.” Said Senior Vet Leanne Wicker

To learn more about Zoos Victoria’s work to fight wildlife extinction visit

Healesville Sanctuary would like to thank Professor Gary Egan and Dr Lisa Hutton from Monash Biomedical Imaging, as well as the many specialists involved in Phoenix’s care, for sharing their time and expertise to help this critically endangered possum. 

These specialists include;

Dr Darren Merrett of Melbourne Veterinary Specialist Centre
Dr Leah Bradbury, Specialist Veterinary Anaesthetist
Dr Sam Long, Specialist Veterinary Neurologist
Dr Michael de Veer, Head of Preclinical Imaging and Fellow of the National Imaging Facility
Dr Gang Zheng, MRI Physicist and Fellow of the National Imaging Facility
Mr Richard McIntyre, Senior Radiographer
Dr Mitzi Klein, Consulting Veterinarian Monash University