Prague Zoo to help save Aussie possum

·1-min read

Australia's endangered Mountain Pygmy-possum has found a friend in a far-flung place, with a Czech Republic zoo donating almost $200,000 to save the critically endangered species.

A breeding facility being built for the possum in Lithgow in the NSW central tablelands will have the benefit of a $190,000 donation from Prague Zoo.

The gift is partly motivated by the catastrophic bushfires of 2019-20.

The zoo set up a public fundraising page at the beginning of 2020. The reaction from the Czech public was "incredible", says the zoo's director Miroslav Bobek.

"We soon raised over $1 million which enabled us to help support endangered species in Australia and we did not want to miss the Mountain Pygmy-possum which was also threatened by climate change," he said.

"When we learned about the innovative Burramys Project, we did not hesitate to support construction of a breeding facility in Secret Creek Sanctuary."

Only about 1500 of the possums remain in NSW and Victoria.

UNSW researcher Hayley Bates says the animals are vulnerable to high temperatures. Climate change has drastically reduced the number of their favourite meal, Bogong moths.

"Two mild winters in a row with reduced snowfalls could be all that's required to cause extinction of this species," said UNSW palaeontologist Mike Archer.

The Burramys Project will allow the possums to breed in captivity and give scholars a chance to study them.

Researchers will also conduct monitored trial releases into lowland wet forests, where the modern day Mountain Pygmy-possum's ancestors thrived.

The University of NSW, the Australian Geographic Society, the Australian Ecosystems Foundation and the Australian Wildlife Society have also provided funding for the project.