FOR the past two winters, Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum volunteers have skied and snow-shuffled their way across the Lake Mountain plateau above Marysville twice a week to feed the endangered possums.
Natural food has been scarce for the endangered possum during the critical winter months since the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires ravaged the Yarra Ranges National Park.
Volunteers provide food that includes a nectar mix prepared at Healesville Sanctuary.
A passionate animal advocate and longtime Friends volunteer, Emma-Kate Campbell said that without the group the species could have become extinct.
By day Ms Campbell works to raise public awareness of the plight of the endangered helmeted honeyeater. In her spare time, she makes the nine-kilometre trek “rain, hail or shine” to feed the nocturnal possums.
“Being an alpine environment, it takes a long time to recover from a bushfire. I cannot imagine what may have happened to the possum had we not continued with the feeding program,” she said.
“Since the fires we have seen a rapid decline in the number of possums in their natural habitat.”
Leadbeater’s possum is the fauna emblem of Victoria. The possum has been on the brink of extinction for years; its population was as low as 1000 after the 2009 fires.
Ms Campbell said volunteers were able to experience the special sounds and wildlife found within the pristine forest of the park. “You are able to really get to know your local environment and meet people who share the same passions as you.”
Parks Victoria fire recovery officer Jo Antrobus said the volunteers were a tremendous help in keeping Leadbeater’s possum alive.
“It makes such a difference to have dedicated people helping to maintain this special species in its natural habitat,” he said. “Their generous donation of time and effort helps us ensure Victoria’s faunal emblem survives in a landscape devastated by fire.”