Our ‘mascot’ (totem animal?) for the festival is the Mountain Pygmy–possum, Burramys parvus, Australia’s only hibernating marsupial.
It is a small, mouse-sized nocturnal marsupial found in dense alpine rock screes and boulder fields, mainly southern Victoria and around Mount Kosciuszko. The species is currently restricted to three isolated mountain regions: Mount Blue Cow in Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales, Mount Bogong and Mount Higginbotham/Loch in the Bogong High Plains in Victoria, and Mount Buller in Victoria.
According to Wikipedia, as of 2008, the mountain pygmy possum has been declared by the IUCN Redlist as Critically endangered. In 2000, the population estimates totalled less than 2,000 individuals from the three combined isolated populations. Current population estimates indicate that these numbers have declined in the last decade.
The biggest threats to the remaining mountain pygmy possum populations include:
- habitat destruction and fragmentation,
- climate change,
- predation by feral cats and red foxes, and
- threats to the Bogong moth.
- The construction of ski resorts in the alpine regions in which the mountain pygmy possums live has been one of the greatest factors attributed to population decline.
Saving the possum
Check this great story of the work done by Louise Perrin and the team at Mt Buller.
There is a national recovery plan for the possum.
This is a great story about how sniffer dogs are being deployed in efforts to protect the possum.
And this is a report on the very successful ‘Genetic Rescue’ program, which introduced male mountain pygmy possums from a healthy population at Mt Hotham, to a group of females at Mt Buller. The two groups had become physically isolated from each other over 20,000 years.
Check here for details on what Mt Hotham resort are doing to protect the possum.
The Mt Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Zoos Victoria have recently completed a tunnel under the Great Alpine Road, which aims to provide safe passage between two groups of critically endangered Mountain Pygmy-possums. The populations are separated by the road and this reduces the chances of the species remaining viable in the Mt Little Higginbotham area.
Climate change is a huge threat to the possum. Support groups doing effective work to tackle climate change.