A teeny-tiny pygmy possum, the world's smallest, has been found on Australia's Kangaroo Island after ecologists feared the species had been wiped out by the country's devastating wildfires. The adorable marsupial was discovered last week by ecologists from Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife as part of an effort to identify which species survived bushfires that destroyed nearly half of the island.
“This capture is the first documented record of the species surviving post-fire,” ecologist Pat Hodgens told Guardian Australia. “The fire did burn through about 88% of that species’ predicted range, so we really weren’t sure what the impact of the fires would be, but it’s pretty obvious the population would have been pretty severely impacted.”
The tiny creatures, which weigh less than half an ounce, are a difficult species to study because of their size and limited populations, Hodgens said.
Ecologists were encouraged by the little survivor, but said more work was needed to protect the species because several pygmy possums had been found in the stomachs of feral cats.
“Right now they’re highly compromised as a species,” Hodgens said. “They’re still not out of the woods because right now they’re at their most vulnerable. As the bushland regenerates they’re still very exposed to natural and introduced predators.”