Using evidence from the fossil record, the Australian Ecosystems Foundation is proud to be playing a key part in the collaborative effort to save the Mountain Pygmy -possum. This tiny marsupial has been a part of our ecosystems for twenty four million years and was thought to be extinct until it was re-discovered near a ski lodge in the Snowy Mountains in 1966. The possums are found only above the snowline and are facing the threat of extinction due to habitat loss, climate change, and predation by foxes and feral cats.
This exciting conservation cause is bringing a range of experts and agencies together and is being undertaken together with the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, researchers from the University of NSW, the University of Sydney and the Office and Environment and Heritage (OEH). It has also attracted support from Australian Geographic and Paddy Pallin.
Australian Ecosystems Foundation will be hosting a state-of-the-art new breeding and research facility for the possums. Secret Creek Sanctuary in Lithgow is the highest wildlife sanctuary on mainland Australia and is well suited to house the possums. Mountain Pygmy-possums are Australia’s only hibernating alpine marsupial; they require enduring cold temperatures over winter to go into torpor, a type of hibernation where they curl up under the snow and lower their body temperatures, sleeping through the colder months. Temperature probes placed in rock mounds at Secret Creek have shown that the area is cold enough, for long enough, to support the possum’s hibernation and therefore a successful breeding program.
Historically, Mountain Pygmy-possums did not have such a restricted distribution, they were found at lower altitudes and in different habitats. A critical part of this conservation effort is to carry out research to see what temperatures the possums can adapt to, in the hope that they can be reintroduced back into warmer climates and different habitats. Given their snowy habitat is fast disappearing, this is their best bet for survival into the future.
The project involves some of Australia’s key biodiversity researchers, including Professor Mike Archer AM from the University of NSW and Dr Linda Broome of EOH.
The project team is currently running a fundraising appeal to secure costs for the breeding facility - if you can help support the efforts to save this extraordinary little possum please make a donation through this website. All donations of $2 or over are tax deductible.