The Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife group has been busy since the fires but got the ultimate reward last week finding its first little pygmy-possum survivor.
Ecologist Pat Hodgens said there had only ever been 113 recorded sighting of the threatened little pygmy-possum on the western end of KI where it lives.
While the more common western pygmy-possum is more widespread over KI and the mainland, it was not known how many of the much rarer little species survived.
Mr Hodgens said the tiny possum was found by by the group's workers in a remnant section of bush in the De Mole River/Snug Cove area, on a collection of private properties known as the North West Conservation Alliance zone.
The group has also found western pygmy-possums on the western end of the Island since the fires.
In addition, a 370-hectare section of bushland known as the Western River Refuge has been fenced off collaboration with Australian Wildlife Consevancy.
This refuge will protect dunnarts, pygmy-possums and a range of other species vulnerable to feral cats, which are taking an increasing and incredible toll on surviving wildlife after the fires.
The Kangaroo Island Land for Wildlife group is also working with the landowners on an ecological fire management plan to protect the area from future firestorms.
"These bits of long-unburned bushland are crucial to protecting these species," he said.
Renowned pygmy possum expert and fellow KI resident Dr Topa Petit of the University of South Australia is equally excited by the discovery.
"Based on Museum records, a meeting involving all levels of government on KI in February suggested that 88 per cent of the range of the little pygmy possum had been burnt," she said.
"So finding a little pygmy-possum in a patch of unburnt habitat within the fire zone is excellent news!"
Dr Petit confirmed we have two species on KI: the little pygmy-possum and the western pygmy-possum.
"The western pps range goes all the way to southern WA," she said. "Pygmy-possums need long-unburnt habitat and we have not so far found them in burnt habitat.
"The populations of both species have certainly taken a severe blow, and it is particularly concerning for the little pygmy-possum in view of its relatively small range.
"The range of the little pygmy-possum is restricted to western KI, south-eastern SA, and north-western VIC. Although there is a little pygmy-possum in Tasmania, genetic evidence indicates that in fact it is a completely different species."
In troubling news, Dr Petit this week just reported the theft of four bat-detecting devices being used by the KI Wildlife Network being stolen out of her car.
Some of the statistics from KI Land for Wildlife's recent work:
- 20 fauna sites surveyed
- Worked with 20 landholders across 10 properties in the North West Conservation Alliance management zone
- 16 staff on the ground
- A COVID lockdown in the middle
- Close to 200 individuals captured
- Over 20 different wildlife species
- Southern brown bandicoots, native bush rats, Western and Little pygmy possums, brush-tailed possum and tammar wallaby
- Bull skinks, Eastern three-lined skinks, mallee snake-eyes, dwarf skinks, pygmy copperheads, four-toed earless skinks, bougainville's skinks, garden skinks, heath goannas
- Eastern banjo frogs, common froglets, painted frogs, spotted grass frog, bibron's toadlet and much more.......
- Big thanks to the KI Land for Wildlife team, ZoosSA staff and dedicated landholders for allowing us access to your protected bushland properties.
- None of this would have been possible without the funding support from the Australian Governments Wildlife and Habitat Bushfire Recovery Program, Australian Wildlife ConservancyAdelaide Zoo and Monarto Safari Park