A year of good rain over the Danggali Conservation Park has produced a few surprises for UniSA lecturer Joan Gibbs and her students, not the least of which is the discovery of a Western Pygmy-Possum (Cercartetus concinnus). After 20 years of surveys, tracking changes in the animals and vegetation in the park, 100km north of Renmark, Gibbs was especially delighted student that Gavin Agius found the tiny marsupial last month.
"We always thought we should catch a Western Pygmy-Possum because itís the type of mallee you get at Brookfield Conservation Park, near Blanchetown, which has pygmy-possums," she said. "This discovery expands their distribution range about a further 100km into the arid zone."
"The number of marsupials such as dunnarts and ningauis caught in the ongoing trapping program is a good indicator of intact mallee vegetation", Gibbs said. But this yearís results have been unusual.
"We havenít had such a good rainfall in years. Itís affected everything," she said. "In the past 20 years, itís been really dry. And so when we have an unseasonably wet year, all these things come out Ė theyíve been breeding up."
One might reasonably expect a seasoned ecologist to be a little underwhelmed by yet another marsupial, but Gibbs was clearly taken by the little critter.
"It was so cute, just like Possum Magic. He ate mealworms and he just chomped away, and when we went to release him, he didnít want to go," she said.