Australians living in the south-east can help save the mountain pygmy-possum by switching lights off

By Australian Geographic 26 August 2019
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Turning your lights off won’t just cut your electricity bill, you’ll also be helping an adorable Australian marsupial.

ZOOS VICTORIA have launched a new campaign encouraging Australians living in south-east Australia to switch of their lights to help save the critically endangered mountain pygmy-possum.

The adorable marsupial, known for its curly tail and chubbiness, is at risk of starvation as its main food source, the bogong moth is deterred from its normal flight path by unnecessary outdoor lighting.

It’s believed that because the moths use both the Earth’s magnetic field and visual cues on the horizon to find their way, light pollution effectively traps the moths.

For two years now, the bogong moth hasn’t been seen in the Victorian Alps – the home of the mountain pygmy-possum – and scientists say this has contributed to a decline in possum populations.

According to Zoos Victoria, 2018 saw litter loss of up to 95 per cent in the females in the areas surveyed. They say that this could be attributed to a lack of nutrition, which makes it impossible to produce milk for the young. 

Zoos Victoria CEO Dr Jenny Gray says the loss of the bogong moths could herald the end of Australia’s only hibernating marsupial.

“We talk of the butterfly effect, where a small action in one place grows into a disaster in another,” Jenny says “The lack of a flutter of moth wings may well herald the doom of a cute, fluffy, hibernating possum half a continent away. It’s critical that we take action this spring.”

Lights Off for Moths will commence on 1 September, with Zoos Victoria hoping all those along the moths’ flight path, from Queensland, NSW, the ACT and Victoria, will participate. 

The campaign will be accompanied by a new citizen science platform called Moth Tracker, where people can record any sightings of the bogong moth. 

To find out more, visit the Zoos Victoria website here.