Wednesday, February 8, 2017

by J.E. Rogers

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is an organization dedicated to the field of conservation. They continuation collect data and analyze it. They are involved in research, field projects, sponsor and lobby for the education of environmental issues that include both flora and fauna around the world.

The IUCN has a list of eighty-six animals living on the continent of Australia that are considered endangered. The Mountain Pygmy Possum is one of them, and it’s one of the cutest as well. 

Meet the Mountain Pygmy Possum.

Image Credit: Depi Vic

So, what are the criteria used by the IUCN to determine endangerment? One important factor is that a population of a species must exhibit a reduction of 90 percent within a decade, the range of a population is severely limited or fragmented, or the population contains less than fifty individuals.

The below image shows the categories that the IUCN uses. Each category has a specific definition. For example:

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED (CR) - A taxon is Critically Endangered when it is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future, ... (IUCN)

ENDANGERED (EN) - A taxon is endangered when it is not Critically Endangered, but is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future... (IUCN)

VULNERABLE (VU) - A taxon is Vulnerable when it is not Critically Endangered or Endangered, but is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future... (IUCN)

Image credit: IUCN

Let’s go back to our friend, the Mountain Pygmy Possum, which is categorized by the IUCN as critically endangered, and is, therefore on its ‘red list.’ The Mountain Pygmy Possum is a small marsupial with a prehensile tail. It is also rare in terms of behavior. This little marsupial hibernates up to seven months in winter.

Photo credit: Jean-Paul Ferrero/Auscape International

The Mountain Pygmy Possum is critically endangered because it requires a very specialized habitat—in particular, summits at an elevation between 4,900 to 7,200 feet. They especially like gravel and boulder fields.

Photo credit: Twon Scan Nature

The most interesting fact about this little critter is that it was only known from fossil records until it was discovered alive and well in 1966 in the Australian Alps. Unfortunately, people like to ski on the mountains, and that has put a strain on its habitat. Further, this nocturnal marsupial’s habitat is decreasing as a result of global warming—warmer weather, less snow. The fox and feral cats play a part in its decreasing populations as well. Both the fox and the cat are not indigenous to Australia. They were brought to the continent and have played havoc with a number of Australia’s native species, not just the Mountain Pygmy Possum.

Photo credit: Australian Reptile Park

“Management plans for the species have been put in place in Victoria and New South Wales, and a national recovery plan is currently being prepared.” (IUCN Red list – 2009)

Here’s a short video for you. You’ll be able to see this small creature on the move.

If you would like to read more about this unusual mammal, visit the following sites:

Thanks so much for stopping by. I do hope you enjoyed reading about this unusual and critically endangered possum. 

Jeanne E. Rogers, Author
The Sword of Demelza, The Gift of Sunderland, and
One Hot Mess, a Child’s Environmental Fable
Award Winning Middle-Grade Fantasy, Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages!

To learn more about me, visit my ‘author page’ on Amazon:

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