Sunday, 10 November 2019

Aussie researchers mount rescue bid for endangered pygmy possum

NOVEMBER 4, 2019



The tiny mountain pygmy possum lives in Australia's alpine regions but less than 2,500 remain in the wild, according to estimates, with winter snowfall declines and warmer weather threatening extinction

Climate change is threatening to wipe out Australia's critically endangered mountain pygmy possum, but researchers are hoping to save the hibernating species by relocating the last remaining mammals to cooler lowlands.

The tiny mammal lives in alpine regions but less than 2,500 remain in the wild, according to estimates, with winter snowfall declines and warmer weather threatening extinction.

The possums hibernate deep inside humid rock piles that are insulated by snow during winter and provide shelter from high summer temperatures that can prove fatal.

The species—Australia's only hibernating marsupial—needs temperatures to hover just above freezing to hibernate successfully, but without enough snow the cold air outside penetrates the rocks and chills the atmosphere inside, University of New South Wales (UNSW) associate lecturer Hayley Bates said Monday.

"Anything less than 0.6 Celsius will wake them from their hibernation and they can shiver and starve to death," she added.

"You just need two bad winters like this and the species could collapse."

Scientists at UNSW have started a breeding program in a lowland area of New South Wales state in an attempt to acclimatise the possums to a new home, with hopes of establishing an inital colony of 25 animals.

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