The Mountain Pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus, is Australia’s only hibernating marsupial. There are thought to be less than 2000 Mountain Pygmy-possums left in the wild, and the species is listed as Critically Endangered.
All three declining populations occur in the alpine and subalpine regions of periglacial rock scree and boulderfields: in the Bogong High Plains and Mt Hotham in Victoria and Mt Kosciusko in New South Wales. The populations are genetically distinct and are managed separately. The population at Mt Buller was discovered in 1996 and is the most vulnerable to extinction.
Zoos Victoria became involved in the Mountain Pygmy-possum Recovery Program in 2007. Captive breeding may be an important method of recovering Mountain Pygmy-possums, particularly the Mt Buller population. Healesville Sanctuary currently holds a breeding population of 45 Mountain Pygmy-possums, and successfully bred young in 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11.
The overall objective of the Mountain Pygmy-possum Recovery Program is to achieve down-listing of the Mountain Pygmy-possum from Endangered nationally to a lower threat category based on 1994 IUCN Red List criteria of population size and trends, extent of occurrence, and probability of extinction.
Zoos Victoria’s key roles in the recovery of this species are to:
- Develop a captive management program for the species and supplement wild populations through captive breeding for reintroduction
- Maintain an insurance population in captivity
- Assist with population monitoring programs
- Increase community awareness of the plight of the Mountain Pygmy-possum and community support for its conservation
Plans and publications
Geiser F and Broome LS (1991) Hibernation in the Mountain Pygmy-possum Burramys parvus (Marsupialia) J. Zool. Lond. 233: 538-539.
Hienze D, Broome L and Mansergh I (2004). A review of the ecology and conservation of the Mountain Pygmy-possum Burramys parvus. Pp. 254-267 in The Biology of Australia Possums and Gliders ed by RL Goldingay and SM Jackson. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Chipping Norton, Sydney.
Heinze D and Williams L (1998) The discovery of the Mountain Pygmy-possum Burramys parvus on Mt Buller, Victoria Victorian Naturalist 115: 132-134.
Mitrovski P, Heinze D, Broom L, Hoffmann AA and Weeks AR (1997). Genetic fragmentation despite high levels of variation in populations of the Mountain Pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus, in alpine Australia.
Osborne MJ, Norman JA Christidis L and Mauuary ND (2000). Genetic distinctness of isolated populations of an endangered marsupial, the Mountain Pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus. Molecular Biology 9: 609-613.
- These tiny possums are the only Australian marsupial that hibernates over winter – beneath the snow!