Bridging the Gap

Why did the possum cross the river? To get to the other side!

The South West Catchments Council (SWCC), in collaboration with the Water Corporation, the University of Western Australia (UWA), the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and the RAC Busselton Holiday Park and with support from Main Roads and the City of Busselton, have partnered in a possum bridge project in Abbey, near Busselton.

The western ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) is recognised as a threatened species under State and Commonwealth legislation.

“A population viability analysis conducted on female possums of a population living near Caves Road, Busselton, shows that the probability of the population going extinct in the next 20 years is alarmingly high at about 92 per cent,” said Dr Roberta Bencini from UWA.

UWA researchers identified fox predation and road mortality as the key drivers of possible extinction in this local Caves Road sub-population. Elsewhere in Busselton, vegetation loss remains the greatest threat to the survival of the western ringtail possum.

“Dispersing to and from these remnant patches of vegetation increases exposure to cat, dog and fox predation,” said Dr Bencini.

“Habitat patches within the urban areas are surrounded by roads, which cause habitat loss, road kills and facilitate feral predator movement.”

To assist in the genetic flow between the Caves Road sub-population of the western ringtail possum, SWCC and its project partners are working together to build a possum bridge. The bridge is due to be completed in May 2018.

SWCC Biodiversity Project Manager, Jenelle Schult, said the possum bridge would allow the safe passage of the western ringtail possum over the Buayanyup River, between the Locke Nature Reserve and the RAC Busselton Holiday Park.

“This is a highly collaborative project,” she said. “The Water Corporation is co-funding the installation of the bridge; UWA will supply and install camera’s and will monitor the possum’s use of the bridge; and DBCA will continue fox baiting in the Locke Nature Reserve.

“The RAC Busselton Holiday Park will undertake revegetation to increase possum habitat and continue to raise awareness with the Park’s visitors of how lucky we are to have this critically endangered species in our backyards.”

SWCC and its project partners look forward to officially launching the opening of the bridge in June 2018.

Water Corporation South West Regional Manager, John Janssen, said his team was proud to be involved in such a worthwhile partnership which contributed to the local environment.

This project is supported by the South West Catchments Council, through funding from the Water Corporation and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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