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Western Ringtail Possum

Home / Our Environment / Biodiversity / Western Ringtail Possum

western-ringtail-possum_imgThe Geographe Catchment and particularly the Busselton area has one of the most significant remaining Western Ringtail Possum (WRP) populations.

In 2014, the WRP had its conservation status upgraded from ‘threatened’ species to ‘endangered’ (rare and likely to become extinct) under the Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act. It is listed as “vulnerable” under the federal EPBC Act. Only three large populations remain. The densest (up to 20 ringtail possums per hectare) and largest population occurs in and around the town of Busselton.

A high level of threat to the species exists within the catchment due to clearing of habitat for urban development. Peppermint trees (Agonis flexuosa) or peppies as they are known locally make up to 95% of the diet of the Western Ringtail Possum in the wild.

The WRP has disappeared from 90% of its original range due:

  • – Land clearing for agriculture and urban development
  • – Logging and burning of southwest forests
  • – Predation by foxes and feral cats
  • – Attacks by domestic cats and dogs
  • – Being killed by traffic as they try to cross roads
  • – Poisoning by rat and snail bait
  • – Relocation to unsuitable habitat
  • – Diseases such as toxoplasmosis which is carried by cats

Ongoing community concerns raised with GeoCatch about the Western Ringtail Possum in the Busselton area led to the initiation of the Peppies for Possums Program. The Program aims to protect the habitat of the Western Ringtail Possum through population surveys, weed control, site preparation and planting of Peppermints in priority areas and awareness raising in schools and the wider community. For more information refer to the Peppies for Possums Project Page.

GeoCatch through its Peppies for Possums Program also supports the Western Ringtail Action Group (WRAG) which is made up of a collection of community members interested in the conservation of Ringtails and their habitat. Anyone is welcome to join WRAG which has representatives from the Department of Parks and Wildlife, the City of Busselton, Fostering Assistance for Wildlife Needing Aid (FAWNA Inc), Busselton-Dunsborough Environment Centre, Possum scientists, a local Vet and interested individuals.

GeoCatch held the first Western Ringtail Possum workshop in 2005 and then initiated the ‘Peppies for Possums Project’, which was launched by the Hon Dr Judy Edwards, Minister for the Environment in October that year. The program has been ongoing since then with a focus on raising awareness about western ringtail possums as a threatened species in our schools and communities, undertaking revegetation projects of WA peppermint and understory species to provide habitat corridors and supporting the Western Ringtail Action Group. As coastal development continues to boom around Busselton, helping save the western ringtail possum from extinction is as important as ever. GeoCatch will continue to work with the community to protect an important biodiversity icon in our catchment.