Pygmy possums make public debut

Seven mountain pygmy possums have been born at Victoria's Healesville Sanctuary.
Seven mountain pygmy possums have been born at Victoria's Healesville Sanctuary.

HUDDLED n a small wooden box, their shiny pink noses twitching, is a group of newborn mountain pygmy possums, blissfully unaware of just how precious they are.

It's taken more than a decade for the critically-endangered creatures to be bred in captivity and Zoos Victoria claim they have finally cracked the code.

Seven of the mountain pygmy possums have been born to two wild females - Bev and Plum - at Victoria's Healesville Sanctuary and on Thursday photos and footage was released of the cuties.

"The arrival of these joeys is a breakthrough as we have had low breeding success with wild females in the past," Zoos Victoria reproductive biologist Marissa Parrott said.

"We now have confidence that we can breed and care for these beautiful possums and have a successful toolkit in place if the situation in the wild worsens or there is a catastrophic event, like a major bushfire."

There are only about 2000 of the tiny animals, which can weigh as little as 35 grams, left in the wild and they are Australia's only true hibernating marsupial.

Climate change is a significant threat to the remaining wild populations and Zoos Victoria has been working with the mountain pygmy possum recovery team to develop an emergency response.

"The strategy's goal is to understand these tiny possums - everything from diet and behaviour to breeding preference and social structure, so we can help protect them in the future," Dr Parrott said.

Australian Associated Press