Oral presentation- Open Session 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Survival in the snow:  the first release of captive-bred mountain pygmy-possums (Burramys parvus) to the wild (#415)

Marissa L Parrott 1 , Paula Watson 2 , Melanie Lancaster 2 , Rupert Baker 2 , Kathy Starr 2 , Natasha Rose 2 , Dan Harley 1
  1. Wildlife Conservation & Science, Zoos Victoria, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  2. Healesville Sanctuary, Zoos Victoria, Badger Creek, Victoria, Australia

The mountain pygmy-possum has been the focus of active and innovative conservation over the past decade, including wild-wild translocations between populations, predator control and habitat regeneration. In 2013, we trialed the first release of this endangered species from captivity to the wild. The key objectives were to evaluate the survival rate for captive-bred possums and test whether released animals genetically augment the wild population. Eleven possums (six females and five males) bred in captivity at Healesville Sanctuary, Zoos Victoria, plus two wild-born males, were deemed genetically suitable for release to two boulder-fields at Mt Buller, south-eastern Australia, by the Mountain Pygmy-possum State Recovery Team. In captivity, possums were provided with food, habitat features and social interactions to mimic their wild environment as much as possible and were housed in temperature-controlled enclosures that promoted natural hibernation cycles. Released possums were radio-tracked for four weeks to determine survival, reproduction and habitat use. Short-term survival was extremely high, with 6/6 females and 6/7 males re-trapped one month post-release. The remaining male’s collar was found detached (without evidence of predation). Further trapping by field partners monitored the possums over time, with 85% of possums being re-trapped over the following four months. All females produced one to two litters of pouch young within four months of release, with some of their young and at least one of the released females also producing young the following year. Knowledge gained from this trial will help inform future management strategies aimed at securing this species in the wild.