An Australian mountain pygmy possum is fitted with a tiny radio tracking collar. The rapidly warming climate has contracted the Snowy Mountains' blanket of winter snow that serves as a possum refuge from freezing temperatures when the possums hibernate for six months. Photo: Nick Moir

By Nicky Phillips, Science Reporter
24 March 2013

(Sydney Morning Herald) – Endangered species experts plan to save the mountain pygmy possum from becoming the continent's first climate-change victim.

A rapidly warming globe has contracted the Snowy Mountains' blanket of winter snow that serves as a possum refuge from freezing temperatures when it hibernates for six months.

''It's possible that just a couple of years of no snow could wipe out the possums left in the wild,'' says the University of NSW naturalist and paleontologist Mike Archer.

Estimates suggest there are just 2600 possums living in three distinct genetic populations throughout Kosciuszko National Park and alpine regions of Victoria.

In an attempt to save the species, Professor Archer and Linda Broome, from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, want to establish a breeding population away from the species' present habitat, in an environment where its ancestors once thrived.

Evidence from fossil deposits reveals the ancient relatives of the possum, including one that lived 25 million years ago, occupied vast areas of low-lying, temperate rainforest. […]

The team plans to establish a colony of possums at the Secret Creek Sanctuary near Lithgow. When they raise enough money and get government approval, the sanctuary's owner, Trevor Evans, will build a rock wall that mimics the boulder fields and keeps the temperature about 4 degrees during winter. [more]

Scientists look to past to save possum's future

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