By Ian Scoop Talbot
September 7 is National Threatened Species Day in Australia. The date commemorates the death of the last known Tasmanian tiger, which died dismally at the Hobart Zoo 82 years ago this year.
Of all the threatened species in this country, one lives very close to home in northeast Victoria. The mountain pygmy-possum is a small, ground-dwelling native that lives amongst the alpine and sub-alpine boulderfields and rocky scree in southeastern Australia.
They are the only Australian marsupial that hibernates for long periods during the winter months.
What is remarkable about the mountain pygmy-possum is how we came to know of them. In 1896 Scottish South African doctor and palaeontologist Robert Broom was working in Australia, when he discovered the species. Not alive, however, but in a fossil. It was thus assumed that the little pygmy was long extinct.
That wasn’t until 1966 when a live, unfossilised version was discovered in a ski lodge at Mount Hotham. With only one verified living animal, the 1967 Guinness Book of Records recorded the mountain pygmy possum as the rarest animal on earth.
On Friday 7 and Saturday 8 September, local ranger Meaghan Raymond will be on hand at Falls Creek Cross Country to discuss what Parks Victoria is doing to help the possum, as well as things you can do to help endangered species survive.
Falls Creek Cross Country is also offering free ski hire on the day for anyone who wants to get out and explore the High Plains.