Species profile

Eastern Pygmy Possum

Eastern Pygmy Possum

Range and abundance

The Eastern Pygmy Possum inhabits heathland, Banksia scrub and eucalypt forests along the south-east coast of Australia, from south-eastern Queensland to far south-eastern South Australia. Populations also occur west of the Great Dividing Range at Pilliga Forest in NSW, and in Tasmania.

Description

The Eastern Pygmy Possum is tiny, weighing less than 45 grams and growing to just over 10 cm in length. It has a short snout and large round ears. Its fur is grey-brown above with whitish underparts, and it has a long, sparsely-furred tail (also about 10 cm) which is prehensile (able to wrap around twigs and branches) providing extra support when it is moving through the foliage.

Ecology

The Eastern Pygmy Possum is nocturnal, emerging at night to feed on nectar and pollen from flowering plants such as banksias and eucalypts, as well as some insects. It is an important pollinator, transferring pollen between flowers as it feeds. Eastern Pygmy Possums construct small spherical nests out of bark, often in tree hollows or beneath a loose layer of bark, where they shelter during the day. In cold conditions, they enter a state of torpor to conserve energy.

Threats

Eastern Pygmy Possums occur across a wide area, but are sparsely distributed throughout their range. In New South Wales, wide-scale efforts to trap for the species have resulted in low capture rates. Habitat loss through logging, altered fire regimes, and introduced predators all pose significant threats to the species. Habitat fragmentation has caused some populations to become isolated, restricting dispersal between populations. Inappropriate fire regimes can lead to a decline in the nectar-producing plants on which the possums feed, and feral foxes and cats are known predators.


What is AWC doing?

In late 2016, AWC carried out a historic translocation to reintroduce pygmy possums to the largest remaining patch of Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub at North Head Sanctuary in Sydney. This latest reintroduction is part of an ongoing effort to restore native mammal species to North Head, and follows the successful establishment of a population of Native Bush Rats on the headland. Native mammals such as the Eastern Pygmy Possum and the Bush Rat contribute to the ecological integrity of the headland, acting as important pollinators for several species of Banksias.

Did you know:

Did you know that Eastern Pygmy Possums store fat at the base of their tail when conditions are favourable, and can enter a state of torpor (like short-term hibernation) when the going gets tough?