High-altitude rescue effort launched

By Joanna Egan 7 October 2010
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The AG Society has launched a huge fundraiser to help one of Australia’s most threatened marsupials.


THE MOUNTAIN PYGMY POSSUM  is in rapid decline. Our only alpine marsupial is currently confined to an area of fewer than 5 sq. km in the high country of eastern Victoria and southern NSW. This unique animal is at risk of disappearing as climate change pushes the winter snowline higher.
“The impact of current threats, which include predation and habitat disturbance and loss, is predicted to increase with loss of snow cover from global warming,” says Dr Linda Broome of the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.

“Food supply may also be affected, particularly the abundance and timing of arrival of migratory Bogong moths, an important source of energy and protein for possums arousing from hibernation to breed in spring.”

The mountain pygmy possum is the only marsupial to hibernate under the snow during the coldest months of the year. Periods of short snow cover and early snow melt threaten its survival; thin snow cover decreases insulation from the cold, disturbing their hibernation, and early snow melt encourages premature emergence.

Climate change threat

This is increasingly occurring before the arrival of Bogong moths, which is encouraging the possums to venture further afield in search of food, putting them at increased risk of predation and disrupting their breeding cycles.

“The mountain pygmy possum is clearly in a precarious position due to its population size and increasing threats predicted with climate change,” says Linda.

That’s why the AG Society is working with the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife to launch its biggest ever fundraising campaign. Researchers are exploring potential breeding programs to reintroduce animals to depleted sites, and to introduce them into unoccupied areas of alpine habitat. They are also exploring adapting the species to warmer climates, where fossil records indicate its relatives once flourished.

Read all about the exciting new University of New South Wales-led project, which is using evidence from the fossil record to provide clues to save the species.

“There is a long road ahead,” says Linda. “We need to try every possible strategy to save these amazing creatures.”

To help save the mountain pygmy possum buy a magnet or make a donation in any AG Store, or send a cheque or money order to AGS, GPO Box 4088, Sydney NSW 2001. Please write “pygmy possum” on the back of the envelope. Click here to donate online.