: Possums (Research)
General Background / What
is a Possum
Possums are marsupials: young are born in an undeveloped state inside
a pouch. There are 23 species with the most common the Brushtail Possum
and the Ringtail Possum and live in Australia (also NZ). Most species share
the same characteristics, habit and living conditions. Throughout this
project, it will be based on the brushtail possum.
medium stout build
fur silvery-grey to black, it's belly dark yellow to white
Ear long and oval, tail bushy with black tip, naked beneath for half the
Longest length is 45cm, tail measures 27 cm. (approx a domestic cat)
Solitary animal weighs 4500 grams
They are adapted for climbing in many ways. Their front feet have 5
toes and large claws for gripping. The long tail is also used to grip a
branch and can serve as a limb while it is climbing, or can support it's
own weight while the hands and feet are used to manipulate food. Their
claws are also adapted for combing it's fur.
Habitat / Where they live
The brushtail is best known due to it? ability to adapt to suburban life
and widely distributed all over Australia. Possum population has increased
due to the lack of eucalyptus trees (toxic oils) and fewer predators.
They are usually found in open forests or woodland/grass with trees large
enough to contain hollows that are used for resting (sleeping) during the
day. Possums may use other animal shelter, such as rabbit burrows or caves
and rock crevices. They usually live in the trees that grow along the watercourses.
Brushtails appear as territorial (defend their land) particularly in den
sites. They generally occupy an area of 2-5 hectares depending on their
gender and seasons. If areas overlap, they try to avoid confrontations.
In suburban areas, where there is a shortage of tree hollows, brushtails
seek shelter in a variety of dark niches, sheds and the space between the
roof and ceiling of a house.
Brushtails feed primarily on eucalyptus leaves and other leaves, flowers,
fruits, nuts, berries, grasses, herbs and the sap of certain trees. Sometimes,
they will catch and eat moths and insects and are also known to eat young
Possums fed in captivity will accept a wide range of fruits and vegetables
including apples, mandarins, grapes, banana, corn and potato. They also
eat bread and oats.
Possums are herbivores and therefore do not naturally have a high protein
diet. Plants are a rich source of protein.
Dehydration is a problem for possums, and must have access of water at
Brushtails wake up about sunset. They stay in their den for an hour, often
grooming. The grooming behaviour is usually like a cat. The possums usually
travel from tree to tree by climbing and jumping. It often stops, sitting
up to listen for danger with its front paws resting on the stomach.
Possums sometimes mark territories with a scent from their chest glands,
and fight for territories with other possums. The sound they produce when
fighting are loud 'whicking' noises and 'thumping' sounds. Their natural
predators are cats, foxes, birds and reptiles (& also humans). When
possums get angry, they utters loud growls, grunts, hisses and screeches.
Stress in possums can be minimised by decreasing the sound made, no smoking,
giving artificial warmth and plenty of sunlight.
Possums are expected to live for 10-12 years in the wild and longer in
Possums and other nocturnal mammals have large eyes for night vision, and
they rely on keen senses of smell, touch and hearing to survive. They attempt
to escape predators of the night by trying to decide when to stand absolutely
still and blend into their surroundings, and when to swiftly flee danger.
Brief Explanation Of Final Design
Shape of enclosure is a cylindrical shape with an open top
Terrain is made from bark and rocky flooring at the back and grassy/leaves
at the front (facing the public). It is designed so that it attracts possums
to 'hang' there.
Burrows, plants/crops and food sources are places up the front for the
Pond is used in case of dehydration/diet etc.
Migration ropes: another way to travel to other trees, so that they are
more visible to the pubic eye.
A shed is used as a sleeping quarter.
Glass, soundproof walls are used to minimise the threat to the animal (also
other animals nearby)
Trees have 'feeding boxes' that act as feeding quarter.
Seating to provide the public's comfort.
The entrance door is for zoo keepers/feeders.