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19 May 2014

For the next fortnight, Dan Harley Threatened Species Biologist at Healesville Sanctuary will be part of a team monitoring the last lowland population of Leadbeater’s Possum at Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve in conjunction with Parks Victoria as part of the annual population monitoring which has taken place since 1996.

Every year at this time, births, deaths and marriages (or romantic partnerships) that have occurred over the past year are recorded. The monitoring is also an opportunity to record the condition of the population, including total population size, territory stability/abandonment, adult breeding rates, and reproductive success.

Leadbeater’s Possums live in small families a lot like us with an adult male, adult female and some young. It is the adult female that is socially dominant and rules the house. Each family occupies its own exclusive territory that doesn’t overlap with that of the neighbours.

Each day for the next fortnight, the team will be in the field working their way through each possum territory with each possum given a unique tattoo number combination in its ears so each individual can be distinguished from other possums.

During the past 10 years, 15 possum families have disappeared, their territories abandoned, and now only 10 remain.

Our goal is to work with partners such as Parks Victoria to restore suitable habitat conditions in the wild at Yellingbo and new wild sites beyond Yellingbo where captive-bred individuals can be released in the future.

Our vision is that 20 years from now there will be several hundred lowland Leadbeater’s Possums spread across a number of sites.

Healesville Sanctuary currently holds the only Leadbeater’s Possums in captivity anywhere in the world (including two on display in the nocturnal house).

Want to keep up to date with Dan and the team’s progress? Check out Dan’s Zoo Feeds on the Zoos Victoria Act Wild.

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