Daily Mail

‘Extinct’ possum found... on family’s BBQ

- By Neil Sears

THE good news: An amateur naturalist went to Papua New Guinea and discovered not one, but two, species feared extinct.

The bad news: The possum found by Michael Smith was being cooked and eaten by a hungry family. Evidently, they like their meat rare.

Luckily, the Louisiade pitta bird he found was chirping happily in a tree – and he took the first ever photograph of the species, last seen in 1916.

But despite Mr Smith’s sighting of the Telefomin cuscus possum on a barbecue, experts say its presence suggests there is still a population at large.

Remarkably, last year’s discoverie­s by Mr Smith, who works at a medical communicat­ions company, were not his first.

Five years ago, he took a photo of a Wondiwoi tree-kangaroo last seen in 1928, also in Papua New Guinea, north of Australia. Mr Smith, of Farnham, Surrey, then travelled back last July. He was aware the Louisiade pitta, which looks like a colourful robin, was believed extinct. But when locals said they had seen it, the 51-year-old went into the jungle with a birdsong recording of a related species. Unlike previous attempts, he got a reply. Feeling lucky, Mr Smith then decided to search for the Telefomin cuscus possum.

Eventually, after trekking through dense forest, he found a family cooking the animals.

‘At least I could see it before it ended up on dinner plates and was able to examine the bodies. Once they had been eaten, I photograph­ed their skulls and took measuremen­ts.’

Last night Zoological Society of London conservati­onist Dr Rikki Gumbs said: ‘Sightings such as this of poorly known species are vital for conservati­on efforts.’

 ?? ?? Successful trip: Mr Smith with locals in West Papua, Indonesia
Successful trip: Mr Smith with locals in West Papua, Indonesia
 ?? ?? Rare: The New Guinea possum
Rare: The New Guinea possum

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