Wildlife ecologists in Australia were overjoyed to find endemic pygmy possums surviving on Kangaroo Island after it was torched by wildfires.
This is similar to finding a very little needle in a haystack hundreds of thousands of acres wide; the possum’s survival on the South Australian island is a sign that wildlife escaped the almost 200,000 hectares burned by this year’s bushfires.
With a weight of just seven grams, and just recorded 113 times officially by science, it was by no means obvious that ecologists and volunteers working for the Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife NGO would find the cercartetus lepidus—the pygmy possum—after fire destroyed so much of its habitat.
C. Lepidus, which is the smallest pygmy possums in the world, is found only on Kangaroo Island, Tasmania, and in very small numbers on the South Australian coast.
Ecologist Pat Hodgens, in an interview with ABC News Australia, working with the NGO said:
The summer bushfires burnt through much of [the] habitat that species had, but we were certainly hopeful that we would find them. It’s very important now because it is kind of like the last refuge for a lot of these species that really rely on very old long, unburned vegetation.Pat Hodgens
In mid-November about 16 people from the NGO surveyed 20 sites, finding 200 different individual animals of over 20 different species, all of which are endemic and some of which are endangered.
Australia’s marsupials are found nowhere else in the world, and they suffer from many invasive species through predation and competition for food. Add in destructive wildfires and their survival odds seem non-existent; but as we know from Jeff Goldblum’s role in Jurassic Park, life finds a way.