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Research shows rehabilitated possums making successful return to wild

Suzanne AstonBusselton Dunsborough Times
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A study has looked at the survival rates of rehabilitated possums.
Camera IconA study has looked at the survival rates of rehabilitated possums. Credit: Mel Bell

A three-and-a-half year study into the success of possum rehabilitation has recently had its findings published.

A research team followed 143 ringtail possums rehabilitated and released in the South West and found those trained to to avoid foxes were 78 per cent less likely to be killed by them.

UWA senior honorary research fellow Roberta Bencini presented the results of the study to a meeting of the Western Ringtail Action Group.

The research team said it was concerned at the high number of released possums dying from predator attacks.

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“We have retrieved radio collars from fox dens, inside a python and at the bottom of a dam,” Ms Bencini said.

“If we find the bodies, we can undertake a post-mortem (examination) and swab them to identify if there is predator DNA present.

“However, the research team found there was a direct relationship between fox control and survival rate and established it is possible to train possums to avoid foxes before release.

“Out of 143 possums released, 51 were killed by foxes, but the trained animals were 78 per cent less likely to die from fox predation.

“Males had a much greater risk of death than females, probably due to their roaming nature.”

During the research, the team tested a theory about whether the possum’s personality affected its survival rate and found bold and outgoing possums had the best chance of survival.

“We see that possums with outgoing personalities have a better chance of survival in the wild, with shy possums having a 35 per cent higher risk of death,” Ms Bencini said.

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