The devastating Australian bushfires of 2019–20 burned almost half of the country and killed or displaced nearly three billion animals. One species that many feared we had lost forever was the pygmy possum. The bushfires destroyed most of their habitat, and no one had seen the rare, tiny creatures since the fires began. However, hope was recently restored when pygmy possums were discovered on Kangaroo Island by wildlife conservation NGO, Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife.
Weighing just 7 grams and measuring around 10 cm (including their tail), pygmy possums are often described as the world's smallest possum. In addition to Kangaroo Island, they can mainly be found in Tasmania and on mainland South Australia and Victoria. Given their tiny size, they’re difficult to find and study; however, the Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife group were pleasantly surprised to find them. The search was part of a large recovery effort to investigate which species were left after the bushfires.
“There's only really been 113 formal records of the species [ever on Kangaroo Island],” Fauna ecologist Pat Hodgens says. “So certainly not very common and, obviously, the summer bushfires burnt through much of that habitat that species had, but we were certainly hopeful that we would find them.”
Along with the pygmy possums, more than 20 other wildlife species have been found, including a tammar wallaby and a southern brown bandicoot. This is fantastic news for the future of each species, and now Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife wants to do everything it can to protect them. Since the fires destroyed much of their habitat, the vulnerable animals need all the help they can get, since they are now more exposed to predators. Hodgens explains, “It's very important now because it is kind of like the last refuge for a lot of these species that really rely on very old long, unburned vegetation.”
Check out photos of the adorable pygmy possums below and find out more about Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife’s efforts on Facebook.