Two orphaned Ringtail Possums have found a surrogate mum at Taronga Zoo.
Taronga staffer, Di Scott, is providing round-the-clock care to the twin brothers, carrying a makeshift pouch and waking at 3am to feed and toilet the joeys.
The four-month-old Possums, nicknamed ‘Ernie’ and ‘Bert’, arrived at Taronga Wildlife Hospital with their mother last week. Their mother was left paralyzed after a suspected collision with a car at Northbridge and sadly didn’t survive.
The twins were losing weight rapidly on arrival but have since made a remarkable recovery in Di’s care.
“It was really hard to tell them apart when they arrived, so the hospital staff put a spot of nail polish on one their toes to help with identification,” said Di.
“They’ve actually got quite distinct little personalities. Ernie is bouncy and boisterous, while Bert is quiet and shy in comparison.”
The Possums are learning to lap a special milk mixture from a dish and starting to nibble on solid foods, such as leaves and native flowers.
“I can hear them munching away on the flowers in the middle of the night. Their favorite is bottlebrush and they fight over the same part of the flower-- like true brothers,” said Di.
The twins will remain in Di’s care until they are ready to feed themselves. They’ll then stay at Taronga Wildlife Hospital until they are old enough to begin a soft release program, where they’ll be transferred to a specialized wildlife carer and ultimately released back into the wild.
Di said the Possums’ story should serve as a reminder to watch out for wildlife on the road, as native animals are often hit by cars.
Taronga Wildlife Hospital cares for and treats about 1,000 injured or orphaned native animals every year, including Wombats, Wallabies, Possums, Echidnas, birds and Sea Turtles.
The Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus ; Greek for "false hand" and Latin for "pilgrim" or "alien") is an Australian marsupial. It lives in a variety of habitats and eats a variety of leaves of both native and introduced plants, as well as flowers and fruits.
As a marsupial, the Common Ringtail Possum carries its young in a pouch, where it develops. Depending on the area, the mating season can take place anywhere between April and December. The majority of the young are born between May and July.
Common Ringtail Possum populations severely declined during the 1950s. However, populations seem to have recovered in recent times. They are currently listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.