Just about every native species of animal in Australia is in decline. The numbers of native animals in the wild is gradually reducing while the numbers of feral animals are getting out of hand.
There are some wonderful native mammals and marsupials in Australia. Of course everybody knows about the kangaroo and the koala, these are iconic Australian animals which are well known and loved around the world. However there are many others which are much less well known but which are threatened.
For instance one of these is the pygmy possum. This is a beautiful Australian marsupial, about the size of a mouse, which is an endangered species in Australia. The mountain pygmy possum is the biggest of all of the pygmy possum family and can fit into the palm of your hand.
These delightful little animals are found only in very small areas in Australia and it is considered that the total adult population is less than 3000 animals.
The mountain pygmy possum lives in alpine and sub alpine regions of Australia which are snow-covered in the winter. As Australia is a relatively warm continent this means that there are only small areas where the mountain pygmy possum can survive. These areas are restricted to around 10 km square kilometres above 1600 metres in height.
Being a hibernating marsupial the pygmy possum needs a sufficient depth of snow cover above it so that it can hibernate whilst retaining its body heat. This is provided by the insulation from a minimum depth of snow cover.
However one of the major issues for this small animal is that it lives in an area that is popular among people for skiing, and therefore its habitat is threatened by the development of ski fields.
One mountain pygmy possum has even been butchered with a hunting knife
And another threat is the threat posed by hunters, or other people with nasty intentions in mind. One animal, for instance, was recently found dead and appeared to have been butchered by a hunting knife.
This tiny animal is also threatened by global warming, which reduces the amount of snow cover in winter and exposes it to cold during the winter which reduces their likelihood of survival.
Another threat to this animal is that it is threatened by non-native species which hunt it, in particular by foxes and by feral cats.
Fortunately the threats to the survival of the mountain pygmy possum are recognised and there are conservation agencies which are now working with ski resort operators in an attempt to protect the habitat of this little animal. This includes rehabilitating their habitat where it has been degraded, reducing the impact of any activity to do with skiing and attempting to maintain or reduce the population of feral cats or foxes around any known population of mountain pygmy possums.
It’s a sad commentary that this tiny little animal, which is totally defenceless against predators, including human beings, may not survive into the next decade. And unfortunately the mountain pygmy possum is only one of many similarly threatened species in Australia, and of course in many other countries around the world.
We, as human beings, have much to answer for. Sadly many other species of beautiful animal must become extinct for us to thrive.