Possum numbers critical

Pierra WillixBusselton Dunsborough Times
A western ringtail possum.
Camera IconA western ringtail possum.

Local and State governments need to set aside land to create reserves for possums, according to FAWNA president Jeff Falconer.

Mr Falconer’s comments come after Environment Minister Albert Jacob declared the western ringtail possum critically endangered earlier this month.

Speaking to the Times this week, Mr Falconer said much more needed to be done to help prevent the extinction of the species, which he said could be gone in the next decade.

“I would say it’s at the tipping point, if not past it,” he said.

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Mr Falconer said based on the numbers collected and studied by FAWNA, the group predicted the species had less than 10 years before it became extinct.

“The population is declining fairly rapidly and 10 years is a very conservative outcome,” he said.

Factors such as land clearing, resulting in a loss of habitat and food, as well as cat and dog attacks, had contributed to the declining population, Mr Falconer said.

“The numbers have been plummeting down,” he said.

The listing of the possum as critically endangered would make no difference unless local and State Governments acted upon that information, Mr Falconer said.

“It’s not acceptable, it’s long overdue,” he said.

“The only way to come back from the brink of disaster is if the Government finds some land for a reserve and creates a breeding area for them.

“There needs to be money spent and reserves protected by fences created.”

A Department of Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman said as a specially protected fauna, the western ringtail possum was now subject to recovery actions and management interventions.

“A recovery plan has been published for the species which identifies the recovery actions needed to reduce the risk of the species becoming extinct,” she said.

Mr Falconer said he and his wife cared for about 80 possums each year but they were finding it difficult to return them to the wild because of land clearing.

“We are looking to release every animal we have in our care and release them back into the wild but the problem is the release sites are disappearing,” he said.

Mr Falconer said setting aside more land that could not be developed and planting more trees and providing more water for the possums was needed.

He urged the community to help.

He said doing things such as planting peppermint trees, putting water on fences, and keeping cats and dogs inside at night could help.

“Once they are gone there is no turning back,” he said.

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