Healesville Sanctuary health check for precious Mountain Pygmy-possums

20 February 2020

Seven adorable baby Mountain Pygmy-possums, each weighing less than 50 grams, have been given their first health check at the Australian Wildlife Health Centre at Healesville Sanctuary.

Vets checked the joeys over thoroughly, taking blood and fur samples and giving each identifying microchips. The tiny babies are the latest success from Zoos Victoria’s Fighting Extinction program, which has been breeding the critically-endangered possums since 2007.

The joeys are now four months old, and bring the total number of Mountain Pygmy-possums at Healesville Sanctuary to 42.

There are fewer than 2,000 Mountain Pygmy-possums believed to be living in the wild, and some areas of their alpine habitat were recently devastated by bushfires. As well as habitat loss, they are threatened by introduced predators and a changing climate.

Reproductive Biologist Dr Marissa Parrott is working with partners in the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program to deliver supplementary food to the affected areas.

“The main focus after the fires is to ensure the possums and other species in the boulder fields have safe access to food and water,” Dr Parrott said. “This is specially designed food to fit their diets.”

This food, named “Bogong Bikkies”, was taste-tested by Healesville Sanctuary Mountain Pygmy-possums to make sure they were safe, delicious and nutritionally suitable. Working with Parks Victoria, they have also been trialled in Victorian boulder fields with a variety of feeder types to determine the best way to give the 'bikkies' to wild possums.

Visitors to Healesville Sanctuary can see Mountain Pygmy-possums in the Nocturnal House, and stop by the gift shop on the way out to buy a Mountain Pygmy-possum Tote for Wildlife. Every tote sale funds the planting of a native food tree in critical Mountain Pygmy-possum habitat.

The Victorian Mountain Pygmy-possum Recovery Team is a voluntary collaboration of conservation organisations. Partners in implementation include: The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Parks Victoria, Saving our Species program – NSW Department of Planning Industry and the Environment, Mt Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board, Mt Buller Mt Stirling Resort Management Board, Falls Creek Alpine Resort Management Board, The University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, Ecology Links, CESAR, Goulburn Broken CMA, North East CMA and Zoos Victoria are working together to save this precious native marsupial from extinction. For more information on the Recovery team, please contact Jerry Alexander, Convenor, Jerry.Alexander@delwp.vic.gov.au.