The world's smallest possum has been found on Kangaroo Island amid fears that the species had been wiped out by the terrible bushfires of early 2020. A voluntary group found the little pygmy possum (Cercartetus lepidus) as part of a conservation effort across the 440,500-hectare island.
Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife is a biodiversity conservation program that aims to provide safe havens for plants and animals, while improving habitats. It surveyed 20 fauna sites and captured close to 200 individuals from over 20 different wildlife species.
These species included southern brown bandicoot, native bush rat, western pygmy possum, brush-tailed possum, tammar wallaby, bull skink, Eastern three-lined skink, mallee snake-eyes, dwarf skink, pygmy copperhead, four-toed earless skink, bougainville's skink, garden skink, heath goanna, eastern banjo frog, common froglet, painted frog, spotted grass frogs and bibron's toadlet.
The group also captured a little pygmy possum, a tiny creature that weighs less than ten grams. Although little pygmy possums are marsupials, they resemble a dormouse in appearance. “This capture is the first documented record of the species surviving post-fire,” fauna ecologist Pat Hodgens told the Guardian. “The fire did burn through about 88% of that species’ predicted range, so we really weren’t sure what the impact of the fires would be, but it’s pretty obvious the population would have been pretty severely impacted.”
Almost half of island was affected by the fires, so work will need to be done to protect the remaining pygmy possum population. According to Hodgens, they’re at their most vulnerable now, because as the bushland regenerates, they’re very exposed to natural and introduced predators such as feral cats. Further information can be found on Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife's Facebook page here.