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Zoo Design : 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.

CHARACTERISTICS
 

  • 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 tip
  • Longest length is 45cm, tail measures 27 cm. (approx a domestic cat)
  • Solitary animal weighs 4500 grams

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    Adaptation
     
    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.

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    Diet
     
  • 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 birds.
  • 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 all times.
  • Behaviour
     

  • 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 captivity.
  • 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.

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    A Brief Explanation Of Final Design