Save Buller Pygmy Possums: lights out, no bogong burgers!

snow action team 18.09.2019

Pygmy possums are as cute as Aussie fauna get – koalas are cool, echidnas are prickly, wombats are adorable (not if you run into them of course – slow down pay attention) – but the little pygmy possum has the size factor in its favour.

But not much else. The endearing little tackers are under threat from climate change – bit hard to hibernate under a snowpack if it doesn’t exist long enough or stably enough to allow them to do that – and (likely linked) threats to their main food supply.

Enter the bogong moth, genuine Aussie tucker for tens of thousands of years and the best crash weight gain food available for pygmy possums in spring.

Pygmy possum on the prowl
Pygmy possum awake and hungry © Zoos Victoria

Lights disrupt the bogong moths migration patterns, so Mt Buller – where one of the only 3 remaining wild populations of pygmy possums are found – has a campaign to dim the lights there and give the little guys a chance. There’s an app to help you do it.

Bogong moth numbers have dived dramatically recently, so the situation sis serious.

We have a theory some of our mates have been bitten by these guys over the years, would explaind a lot .. © Zoos Victoria

Here’s the full story from Buller:

Mt Buller is home to 1 of only 3 known populations of the tiny and endangered Mountain Pygmy-Possum (Burramys parvus).  These rare alpine mammals weigh less than 80 grams, live only in restricted alpine areas and studies show there are as few as 2,600 adults surviving in nature.

In a quest to boost the food supply for the Mountain Pygmy-Possums  Zoos Victoria is leading a campaign “Dim the Lights” which seeks to help more moths make the journey to the mountains by reducing light pollution on their migration path from Queensland down to the Alpine Regions.

The Mt Buller community is embracing the program by turning off non-essential lights and covering outside lights with a cellophane film to reduce the attraction for the Bogong Moths.  The intent is to direct more moths to the boulder fields and rocky crevices beneeath the resort’s southern ski runs where the Mountain Pygmy-Possums will soon be waking up ready to feed.  Locals and visitors wishing to cover their outside lights can collect the film from Guest Services in the Clocktower in the Mt Buller Village.

Zoos Victoria are asking everyone to use the Moth Tracker website – https://www.swifft.net.au/mothtracker/ – to log sightings as the Bogong Moths fly south.  This tool will help the scientific community analyse the moth migration this spring assessing numbers and monitoring their flight path.

Lou Perrin, Environment Manager for Mt Buller and Mt Stirling explains, ‘We urge locals and visitors to use the newly released tracker tool on their phone so it’s easy to snap a picture of the moths and check they are Bogongs.  We can all be part of this simple yet powerful citizen science project and gather data to help our fragile Mountain Pygmy-Possum population.  As the snow melts Mt Buller’s Mountain Pygmy-Possum population will be waking up hungry and we want to do all we can to ensure they have Bogong Moths to fill their bellies.’ 

After a long hibernation the possums usually weigh in at just 35 grams and need to quickly double their weight over the summer so they can store fat in readiness for the next winter.  Bogong moths are their perfect food source providing a power-house of fat and nutrients but the numbers of moths in the alpine areas has plummeted from 4.4 billion to only a few hundred last year according to Dr Marissa Parrott at Zoos Victoria.

Mt Buller’s lovable resort mascot “Barry Possum” will be sharing the message about the ‘Dim the Lights” campaign at Mt Buller this month so look out for him in the Village and on the slopes during the final weeks of the snow season (skiing continues until 6 October).

Bogong moths are just 1-2cms long and pictures to help identify them are available on the Moth Tracker site.  

Find out more about the Mountain Pygmy-Possum Recovery Program:

Save the link for the Moth Tracker on your ph