The community is being encouraged to count backyard possums in the seventh citizen science Ringtail Tally.
Kicking off this week, the Ringtail Tally uses community survey data to increase knowledge of the critically endangered western ringtail possum, which now relies on urban backyards for its survival. While they may seem abundant in Busselton and Dunsborough, western ringtail possums have declined in recent years.
“Our region supports one of the last remaining populations of western ringtail possums anywhere in the world,” said GeoCatch Project Officer, Nicole Lincoln.
“Because they are moving into urban backyards, learning to co-exist with possums will be key to their survival.
“The Ringtail Tally provides the perfect opportunity to engage local residents in citizen science and conservation,” she said.
The information gained from the tally builds a reliable set of observation data that will improve knowledge about where western ringtail possums are found and in what numbers. This information is then used as a reference for population trends, future planning decisions and conservation projects. The data becomes more valuable each year as the Tally is repeated.
Department Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions ecologist, Geoff Barrett, assists GeoCatch to collate the tally data and include it in the WA Threatened Species Database.
“What the tally has shown us is that perhaps the western ringtail possum population has stabilised, which is very encouraging,” said Geoff.
“They are what we call a plastic species, they can adapt and find new places to live.
“And that means suburban areas are vital because they provide food, water and shelter,” he said.
The tally, which recently gained the attention of ABC and Planet Ark, is a perfect school holiday activity that is easy for everyone to participate. Participants simply register, download a data sheet and start counting possums. Half an hour of spotting for two nights a week is the recommended survey time, however all observations are valuable. And everyone who participates goes in the draw to win a possum box. Tally 2021 runs for four weeks from 10 April to 9 May.
This Ringtail Tally is supported by the South West Catchments Council, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.