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Baby western ringtail possums fall from trees during WA heatwave

Friday December 31, 2021 - 01:25 AEDT
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Western ringtail possums are only found in pockets of WA's South West. - ABC

Western Australia's recent record-breaking heatwave proved calamitous for the critically endangered western ringtail possum with some falling from trees due to extreme dehydration.

The heatwave delivered four scorching days of 40-plus-degree-Celsius heat in Perth and other parts of the state including the South West, which is the habitat of the possum.

Wildlife carer Linda Moyle said she was inundated with callouts for western ringtails found in severely poor health at the base of trees and other locations.

"We started to get calls and see casualties on the first day of the heatwave," Ms Moyle said.

"Mothers and their joeys were found sprawled out around trees suffering severe dehydration and other signs of heat stress."

Ms Moyle said many of the mothers found had been depleted of milk.

"It's evidence the babies were taking as much hydration as they could from her, which has forced them to come down from the trees and head out looking for water during the day," Ms Moyle said.

"In 20 years of caring for wildlife, this is the first time I can recall where one species has been impacted by weather to the extent that is has. I had reports that they were literally falling from trees."

Early recovery signs positive

Ms Moyle said those possums that were in care were responding to treatment.

"It's been very encouraging to see how quickly the ones that we were able to get into care have recovered," Ms Moyle said.

"We'll continue to monitor them and work towards returning them to their habitat over the next few weeks."

Ms Moyle said water sources left out by concerned home owners were a saving grace for many of the marsupials and she encouraged others to do the same.

"Just a shallow dish with fresh water left near a tree could really make a difference to all native wildlife, be it possums or tiny insects," Ms Moyle said.

"You can also spray down shrubs and bushes around the garden, which will give wildlife a nice, cool place to stay safe."


© ABC 2021

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