A 'Bold and Brave' Move to Save Leadbeater's Possums

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: April 5, 2022 11:57 pm

Lowland Leadbeater's Possum Zoos Victoria

A conservationist from Zoos Victoria holds one of the last remaining lowland leadbeater's possums during the translocation

Photo Credit: Zoos Victoria

Conservationists have undertaken a move branded as 'bold and brave' as they attempt to save the last lowland Leadbeater's possums. With a population of just 33 remaining Zoos Victoria are locked in a race against time to save the species from extinction.

The species has already been declared extinct once before a chance rediscovery and is currently one of the faunal emblems for Victoria.

To ensure their survival conservationists from Zoos Victoria with assistance from Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning have translocated 13 possums to form a new population.

As part of the move a third of the world's lowland leadbeater's possums will be moved to a new home near Mansfield in Victoria’s north east. Out of a total population of 33, 13 have made the move to Mansfield from the current population located at Yellingbo. The move followed extensive studies to find suitable habitat in Victoria’s north east and Gippsland.

Zoos Victoria Senior Ecologist Dr Dan Harley, who is leading the translocation trial, said eight possums were translocated in October last year, and have done really well at their new forest home.

“Based on these results, we translocated a further five possums in late March [this year] as the next step in our trials to examine site suitability,” Dr Harley said. “The objective is to increase the population size and expand the area of occupancy as part of risk spreading against bushfire. The lowland population is suffering from inbreeding, so restoring

genetic diversity is also critical.''

“The translocation to new locations is a bold and brave step, but necessary to save a species that faces the very really threat of extinction in the next 15 years without intervention."

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“By establishing a new wild lowland population of Leadbeater’s possums we can, hopefully, minimise the risk of this species being lost entirely during a climate-related event such as a bushfire. We also aim to increase population size and, with the introduction of some highland genetics, restore genetic diversity in the lowland population.''

Success in the translocation program is dependent on habitat with this species relying on high-quality swamp forest which can provide foraging opportunities and food resources.

Another challenge faced by this species is hunting by introduced species such as foxes and cats. Luckily as yet none of the translocated leadbeater's possums have been lost to introduced predators.

Leadbeater's possum has already been declared extinct once and it is hoped that the work of conservationists will be enough to stop this happening again. The species was feared lost at the beginning of the last century.

Highland leadbeater's possums were found in 1961 followed by the lowland population at Yellingbo in 1986.

Learn more about Marsupials here - Marsupial Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about Zoos Victoria on their website – Zoos Victoria

Lowland Leadbeater's Possum Zoos Victoria

Dan Harley from Zoos Victoria installs a nest box to act as a home for one of the relocated lowland leadbeater's possums

Photo Credit: Zoos Victoria

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