Tiny pygmy possum found on Kangaroo Island, despite concerns that bushfires had wiped them out

By Australian Geographic December 8, 2020
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Great news for the pygmy possums of Kangaroo Island.

Against all the odds, this week conservationists came across surviving a pygmy possum on Kangaroo Island. It was thought likely that they’d been wiped out following the catastrophic bushfires that scorched almost half the island. 

Australia is home to five species of pygmy possum. This particular species, commonly known as the little pygmy possum, weighing in at just 7 grams, is primarily found in Tasmania. They were rarely sighted on Kangaroo Island before the fires, making their survival even more of a miracle.

“There’s only really been 113 formal records of the species [on Kangaroo Island],” fauna ecologist Pat Hodgens told the ABC. 

“So certainly not very common and, obviously, the summer bushfires burnt through much of that habitat that species had, but we were certainly hopeful that we would find them.”

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(Image credit: Ashlee Benc)

Conservation group Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife, who have been critical to responding to the ecological crisis on the island, came across the pygmy possums last week during forest surveys, which are being undertaken to determine how species have survived on the island.  

There’s been a significant amount of good news coming out of Kangaroo island recently. In May, it was reported that a group of genetically distinct glossy black cockatoos had hatched among the burnt habitat, and there were sightings of the Kangaroo Island dunnart.

Related: The western pygmy possum is the cutest Australian animal

However, there are still concerns for some species that are yet to be sighted, including the native swamp rat.

“We don’t know a lot about that species because it is pretty rare around the island and also fairly susceptible to the wildfire events,” Pat says.

“Even with all fauna survey efforts and camera trapping that we’re doing, we’re still yet to locate an individual swamp rat.”