Dec 19, 2020
EVEN THOUGH 2020 is going down in history as the worst year ever, one bright spot may be the discovery of the cutest little animal found in Australia following the country’s devastating fires.
In late 2019 and into early 2020, massive swaths of Australia went up in flames as wildfires took over the natural landscape across the continent. The heartbreaking scene played out for weeks, as experts declared that potentially billions of animals lost their lives in the blaze. As the Australian Broadcasting Company reported, some entire species came to the brink of extinction.
However, this month, conservation experts shared a bit of good news after assessing Kangaroo Island: a tiny pigmy possum has been found.
The status of the little pygmy possum (cercartetus lepidus) was unknown pre 2020 bushfires on #kangarooisland. With most of its habitat severely burnt we are happy to have detected the species for the first time since the fires in the largest unburnt patch #BushfireRecoveryAU pic.twitter.com/tSRjPunDZ8
— Pat Hodgens (@terrainecology) December 4, 2020
“This capture is the first documented record of the species surviving post-fire,” fauna ecologist Pat Hodgens shared with Guardian Australia. “The fire did burn through about 88 percent of that species’ predicted range, so we really weren’t sure what the impact of the fires would be, but it’s pretty obvious the population would have been pretty severely impacted.”
What makes this find even more significant is the fact that there are only 113 formal records of the species on the island to begin with — perhaps that’s because this utterly adorable creature is just so tiny.
Coming in at just under 10 grams, it’s smaller than a door mouse and can easily hide under just about anything. As Hodgens explained, it also has an extremely limited range, and is typically only found on Kangaroo Island and Tasmania, and rarely on mainland South Australia and Victoria.
And, for even more good news, the tiny possum isn’t the only animal appearing to make a comeback.
“Despite nearly 90 percent of the tiny dunnart habitat lost to fires, numerous animal numbers have since been detected,” Craig Wickham, managing director of Exceptional Kangaroo Island, told Newsweek. “Their sightings, via motion-sensing cameras, is heartening for the Island after fears that habitat destruction would decimate the threatened nocturnal marsupial recorded numbers of between 300 and 500. “But still, there is a long way to go on recovery, and these animals will absolutely need our help.
“Right now they’re highly compromised as a species,” Hodgens said. “They’re still not out of the woods because right now they’re at their most vulnerable – as the bushland regenerates they’re still very exposed to natural and introduced predators.”
For more on the findings, and how to donate to the Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife biodiversity program, see the organization’s Facebook page.