Tunnel help­ing Moun­tain Pygmy­pos­sums find love

Myrtleford Times - - La Fiera -

A NEW specif­i­cally built “love tunnel” has been cre­ated on the Great Alpine Road to help reconnect crit­i­cally en­dan­gered Moun­tain Pygmy-pos­sums.

The $230,000 project on Mt Lit­tle Hig­gin­botham was made pos­si­ble by a part­ner­ship be­tween the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­ment, Land, Wa­ter and Plan­ning (DELWP), Mt Hotham Alpine Re­sort Man­age­ment Board and Zoos Vic­to­ria.

The species that was thought to be ex­tinct un­til its re­dis­cov­ery in the 1960s is Aus­tralia’s only hi­ber­nat­ing mar­su­pial, there are an es­ti­mated 2000 re­main­ing in the wild.

DELWP nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment pro­gram of­fi­cer Jerry Alexan­der said the project was be­ing un­der­taken as part of the species’ re­cov­ery plan which also in­cludes habi­tat restora­tion and preda­tor con­trol pro­grams.

“At Mt Lit­tle Hig­gin­botham, the Great Alpine Road cur­rently acts as a bar­rier for move­ment of pos­sums from one side to the other,” he said.

“Fe­male Moun­tain Pygmy-pos­sums gen­er­ally live in higher al­ti­tude with bet­ter qual­ity habi­tat and deeper boul­der fields, while the males typ­i­cally live lower down the slope.

“We are mak­ing it eas­ier and safer for the males to travel and breed with the fe­males, by link­ing their habi­tats.

“By in­creas­ing breed­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, habi­tat restora­tion and preda­tor con­trol, we are giv­ing this crit­i­cally en­dan­gered species the best chance to thrive.”

A sim­i­lar project was un­der­taken in the 1980s which had suc­cess­fully in­creased breed­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for the pos­sums.

Mt Hotham Alpine Re­sort Man­age­ment Board will con­tinue to work along­side DELWP and Zoos Vic­to­ria to pre­serve and en­hance ex­ist­ing habi­tat, pro­vide move­ment cor­ri­dors and en­sure that fu­ture de­vel­op­ment does not have an ad­verse im­pact on the species.

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