World’s Smallest Pygmy Possum Discovered One Year After Bushfires

December 7, 2020 Updated: December 7, 2020

A little pygmy possum has been discovered on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island after fears it might have been wiped out by the Black Summer bushfires in January.

Conservation group Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife has found the world’s smallest known possum almost a year after the bushfires which burnt down half the island, killed two people, destroyed nearly 90 homes, and devastated a significant amount of wildlife.

Fauna ecologist Pat Hodgens said that the pygmy possum was a difficult species to find and study, due to their tiny size.

Western pygmy possum, Little pygmy possum
Left Western pygmy possum, right Little pygmy possum. (Ashlee Benc/Kangaroo Island Land For Wildlife)

Given that there have only been 113 formal records of the creature ever on Kangaroo Island, the discovery was an exciting one.

“Certainly not very common and, obviously, the summer bushfires burnt through much of that habitat that species had, but we were certainly hopeful that we would find them,” he told the ABC. “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.”

Bibrons toadlet
A Bibrons toadlet. (Ashlee Benc/Kangaroo Island Land For Wildlife)

Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife surveyed 20 sites on the island and found over 20 different wildlife species including pygmy possums, brown bandicoots, native bush rats, Bibrons toadlets, and four-toed earless skinks.

The little pygmy possum weighs a mere 7 grams (0.2 ounces) and grows up to about 6.5 cm (2.5 inches), according to Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Services.

Measuring little pygmy possum
Measuring little pygmy possum. (Ashlee Benc/Kangaroo Island Land For Wildlife)

An Australian Academy of Science study revealed this week that Australia has lost nearly 3 billion native animals due to the Black Summer bushfires. This figure is three times higher than originally estimated at the beginning of the year.