A pre-release facility or ‘Possum Finishing School’ for rehabilitated possums developed near Capel has begun to welcome its first students.
The Possum Finishing School is part of a joint research project involving the South West Catchments Council (SWCC), Fostering and Assistance for Wildlife Needing Aid (FAWNA), The University of Western Australia (UWA) and The Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), and funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.
About 200 critically endangered western ringtail possums come into the care of wildlife rehabilitators between Bunbury and Dunsborough each year and the majority are orphaned or abandoned pouch young.
Individual wildlife rehabilitators and rehabilitation groups spend thousands of hours caring for these animals to raise and/or rehabilitate them to the point where they can be released. However, the fate of these animals after their release has been unknown for the overwhelming majority of animals, until now.
At the facility, possums are being held under standardised conditions prior to their release into the wild so that the risk factors thought to affect their survival can be more easily controlled. The possums will also be fitted with specially made expandable radio collars and their location and survival monitored after release.
South West Catchments Council (SWCC) threatened species program manager Dr Brian Chambers said the project partners had recently obtained the licenses required to operate the facility from the Conservation and Parks Commission.
“The Possum Finishing School and the broader research project will help to ensure that the work of rehabilitators provides maximum benefit to this unique species,” Dr Chambers said.Western Ringtail Possum