On this day in 1961 one of the most remarkable rediscoveries in the animal world occurred in the foothills of the Victorian alps near Marysville to the north-east of Melbourne.
The last recorded sighting of the leadbeater’s possum had been in 1909. Up until that sighting in 1961 many had assumed the mammal, Victoria’s faunal emblem, extinct. So it was great surprise and jubilation when naturalist Eric Wilkinson discovered a pair of the possums near Marysville fifty-seven years ago today that confirmed their existence.
Why was this rediscovery so important and what makes this possum so special?.This event was so significant because of the uniqueness of the possum, a non gliding relic of a bygone era from an estimated 20 million years ago and the only living specimen of petaurid genus and as such represents an ancient ancestral form.
Habitat loss in the central highlands is the main threat to the possum as they prefer old growth trees to live in. The ongoing logging of sections of this forest plus also tragic events like the black Saturday bushfires in 2009 will continue to place this endangered mammal on the critical survival list- it is thought are only fifteen hundred remaining in the wild.