Man Talks To Possum, And The Possum Talks Back

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Morenike Adebayo

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86 Man Talks To Possum, And The Possum Talks Back
Rthoma via shutterstock

How do you find a nocturnal marsupial that is not much bigger than your hand, blends into its natural arboreal environment and is painfully shy of human interaction? Dan Harley, a threatened species biologist at Zoos Victoria, has the answer – or rather, he calls it out to the small Leadbeater’s possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri) – tsst, tsst, tsst!

At least once a year, Harley ventures into the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve, where some Leadbeater’s possums call home, to count their numbers. He uses “call imitation” to summon the possums. In response, they return his call and they sometimes slowly make their way to him as seen in the video below.


A few thousand of the critically endangered possums, also known as fairy possums, can be found in a small 70 by 80 kilometer (43 by 50 mile) swampy forest in northeast Melbourne, Australia.

"The population [here] has declined by more than 60 per cent over the past decade and now contains just 40 individuals," said Harley, speaking to New Scientist. "Severe deterioration in habitat conditions has driven the decline."

As the possum’s natural habitat is amidst forest trees, the major threats to their dwindling numbers come from logging and forest fires. In February 2009, almost half of their territory in the Central Highlands was burned by bushfires.




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