Returning the Brush-tailed Possum to the Flinders Ranges

FAME is working with the South Australian Department of Environment to reintroduce the locally extinct Brush-tailed Possum to arid and semi-arid Australia, starting in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges. Returning the Brush-tailed Possum to the region is an important step towards restoring the unique environment of the beautiful Flinders Ranges.

The Brush-tailed Possum (Virlda) is a totem of the local Adnyamathanha people, and part of their dreaming.

At the end of June 2015 FAME reintroduced   79 Brush-tailed possums (Virlda) into the Flinders Ranges. They were released over four days along river red gum floodplains and creek lines.  The animals were sourced from Yookamurra Sanctuary, a 5,108 ha Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) reserve near Swan Reach in South Australia.Half the possums have been radio-collared and their movements will be monitored for 12 months to ensure that they are adapting to their new homes. A full update will be provided soon.

Why are we returning the possum?

  1. The virlda is extinct in the South Australian arid zone and if successful, this release would contribute to reversing the decline of the species in South Australia.  The research conducted during the release may also provide information on reasons for the decline and assist with determining improved management actions required for recovery elsewhere. 
  2.  Restoring the Brush-tailed Possum to its natural place in the local environment will improve the quality of native vegetation and restore the chain of regeneration. No other animal will feed on the mistletoe that is stressing the magnificent Flinders Ranges red gums, or spread the seeds of important plants like the native orange (Capparis mitchelli).
  3. Over the last 20 years Bounceback has reduced the impact of foxes, goats and other herbivores to facilitate restoration of the natural environment within the Flinders Ranges National Park and surrounds.  Bounceback has been very effective at improving the survival prospects for extant yellow-footed rock wallabies by reducing the impact of foxes and goats.   The success or failure of this virlda reintroduction will in part indicate the extent of ecosystem recovery within the Flinders Ranges National Park.  Additionally, this reintroduction will test whether the current exotic predator control program is sufficient to sustain medium-sized mammals that formerly inhabited the region.  The virlda was chosen as a suitable release species because it is less sensitive to cat predation than many other locally extinct mammals and is a folivore (eats leaves) with a wide ranging diet. 
  4. The virlda is important culturally for the Adnyamathanha people who are the traditional owners of the land within the Flinders Ranges National Park.  Reintroducing the virlda is a goal supported by the Adnyamathanha people.

This will be the second species recovery project being run by FAME in this region (the first being the Western Quoll).  With more than half of the region's mammal species locally extinct, bringing back two species is a great step toward a better future.

The next release will take place on the 27th-29th May 2016. This will help build the population of Possums in the Flinders Ranges and increase the genetic viability of the population.

Last updated February 2016