Saving the Western Ringtail Possum

A WA wildlife group is hosting the Western Ringtail Possum Citizen Science Program in the Peel region to help raise awareness and promote conservation about the critically endangered species.

The Wirambi Landcare program involved community members creating a tally of possums in the Peel region by searching their backyards or local bush reserves for 30 minutes, twice a week from April 18 – May 18.

Wirambi Landcare head of landcare and volunteer coordinator Jason Bird said the results received from participants would indicate the number and distribution of the species in the wild.

“The data collected will be used to put together plans and initiatives to better protect and conserve the population of ringtail possums,” he said.

“People may not realise they have such a unique species in their backyard, so by conducting this program and trying to engage and educate as many people this will provide some level of understanding of what is happening to the population.”

Peel Region Western Ringtail Possum Action Group founder Allison Dixon said the possum was vital to the biodiversity of the area but were being threatened by housing developments, land clearing and prescribed burns.

“The Western Ringtail Possum is quite important to our biodiversity as it is an integral part of carrying seeds and pollinating,” she said.

“The ringtails range from Mandurah south to Old Bunbury Road in the Peel region, to parts of Benger and to parts of Yalgorup National Park.”

Possums require tree top canopy connectivity to thrive. Photo: Caitlyn Watts.

Ms Dixon said the community played a significant role in preserving endangered species because the government is not doing enough.

“We need to be aware of what is endangered so that we can start seriously putting policies and acts in to play to preserve the species so that future generations can walk out and go ‘Ah! There’s a ringtail! They used to be critically endangered but now they’re not’,” she said.

“It comes down to individuals to do the ground work, whether one is a scientist or not a scientist: it’s dedicated people caring about what is going on in their environment.

“Our government is always putting environmental things on the back burner. Why are they not listening to what is really important?”

Australian Citizen Science Association chair Erin Roger said citizen science programs had increased in popularity and allowed for the collection of data and information at levels previously not available. 

“There is a growing realisation that professional scientists alone can’t collect the volume of data that would allow them to look at those problems and understand them and start to address them,” she said.

“Citizen science gives participants an awareness of the biodiversity in their local area and an awareness of the scientific process by participating in field work and methodology.”

Wirambi Landcare is hosting an information session about the program on April 13 at Falcon E-Library in Mandurah where attendees learn how to identify ringtail possums and how to fill out the data collection sheet.