Skip to content

Which is cuter – Honey or Pygmy Possum?

Published 27 Dec 2019 by Kieran MacFarlane

A few days into the annual fauna survey at Monjebup Reserve, 150km from Albany at the sharp edge of the Gondwana Link habitat corridor, we came across our first Western Pygmy Possum (Cercartetus concinnus).

Our supervisor informed us that there’s some conjecture around which tiny marsupial is the cutest, Honey or Pygmy Possums. After seeing both popping up in the pit traps and nesting boxes blanketing the reserve, I can understand the debate.

Over the course of five days myself and four other volunteers interacted with a broad cross-section of animals that had made homes for themselves in the newly revegetated areas, from a multitude of colourful and patterned skinks to the tiger striped Western Blue Tongue, a single stoic dragon and the ever-present and energetic Honey Possums.

Monjebup reserve is a revegetation success like few others I’ve seen before. At eye-level the bushland is a tapestry of trees and shrubs that arranges itself in regular, coordinated lines that hint at the brief agricultural history of the landscape.

From a poor pairing of crops and cleared fields, the land has taken to the native vegetation with a vigour that’s hard not to attribute a sense of sentience to; and amongst the bush, volunteers Sandra, Kyle, Susie, Kirsty and I were on our knees each morning at daybreak gathering the data to show it.

Pitfall traps are comprised of a small wire fence, with a buried bucket in the centre to collect animals and insects which run along the barrier. Paired with a tin Elliot trap and a few Cage traps for larger animals we can see the diversity of creatures gathering in the vegetation.

Each day started at 5.30 am preparing for the morning with gaters for our legs and small vials of honey water for possums to suckle on, and off we went in two teams.

Each trap needed to be cleared and measurements taken from the animals inside before the sun started to heat up; including the skinks that nestled into the sand at the bottom and the possums that curled up to shelter inside.

Honey Possums go into torpor after a few hours with no nectar, and weighing these sleeping marsupials in this state is stress free for both the possum and us; but after a tiny sip of honey water (or “possum petrol” as our supervisor Kirsty called it) they were back in fighting form, wriggling and crawling all over our hands – then it was time to release them onto a nearby flower.

It was incredibly rewarding to take part in this research over the week and to see the progress being made in leaps and bounds by Bush Heritage Australia.

And I can definitely say that despite the adorable droopy ears and tiny snouts of Pygmy Possums, the cuteness of Honey Possums vigour and drive wins out for me.

Thanks to Angela Sanders and Sarah Luxton for including us in this work, and I look forward to visiting Monjebup again, to see the progress in the years to come.

A Honey Possum re-fueling. Image, Kieran MacFarlane A Honey Possum re-fueling. Image, Kieran MacFarlane
Are Pygmy Possums the cutest? Image, Kieran MacFarlane Are Pygmy Possums the cutest? Image, Kieran MacFarlane
Surprise!  Image, Kieran MacFarlane. Surprise! Image, Kieran MacFarlane.
A single, stoic Dragon. Image, Kieran MacFarlane A single, stoic Dragon. Image, Kieran MacFarlane
Measuring the length of a feisty Blue Tongue. Image, Kieran MacFarlane Measuring the length of a feisty Blue Tongue. Image, Kieran MacFarlane

Related stories

Bush Broadcast logo

09/02/2022

Bush Broadcast: Restoring the bush to protect native species

Join our staff as they chat about revegetation efforts underway to protect habitat critically important to native species in south-west WA.

Read More
Andersonia parvifolia at Monjebup Reserve. Photo Libby Sandiford

BUSHTRACKS 14/01/2022

More than beauty

In south-west Western Australia, an incredible diversity of plants sustains an incredible diversity of pollinators. So what happens when both are under threat?

Read More

BLOG 04/08/2021

Welcome rains a boost to the bush

Reveg work for endangered Carnaby's Cockatoos is benefitting from a good wet year.

Read More

BLOG 04/05/2021

The secret life of soil

Did you know that there can be more organisms in one teaspoon of soil than there are people on the planet? The microscopic communities that live in the soil beneath our feet are critical to the health of the planet and ourselves.

Read More

BLOG 10/02/2021

Full steam ahead for Fitz Stirling fauna recovery

It was a proud day for us in south coast WA yesterday as we hosted the launch of our Fitz-Stirling Fauna Recovery Project! This ambitious five-year project spans about 40,000 hectares, making it the largest integrated fauna recovery program involving private landholders in the region’s history. 

Read More
Screenshot from WA wildflowers webinar.

18/12/2020

WA wildflowers

Ecologist Angela Sanders and Alex Hams (Healthy Landscape Manager in South West WA) discuss our Fitz-Stirling reserves. Botanist Libby Sandiford  presents  floral assessments.

Read More

BLOG 04/12/2020

Wildflowers galore in south west WA

Botanist extraordinaire Libby Sandiford has spent the past few years striding across our properties in the Fitz-Stirling in south-west Western Australia. She's documented an incredible 934 species of flora in just under 4000 hectares, which is highly biodiverse by anyone's reckoning.

Read More

BLOG 26/11/2020

Helping out the Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo

Bush Heritage’s efforts to connect remnant patches of bush in the fragmented but ecologically diverse landscape between the Stirling Range and Fitzgerald River national parks have been given a boost with support from Loro Parque Fundación.

Read More
Wildflowers on Monjebup Reserve. Photo Jessica Wyld Photography.

BUSHTRACKS 25/09/2020

From tin whistles to tinsel

As we prepare to start a first-of-its-kind feral control program in the Fitz-Stirling, Noongar Traditional Custodian Aunty Carol Petterson reflects on the changes seen in her lifetime.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 13/04/2020

Jane Caro: Out bush

When writer and self-confessed city-slicker Jane Caro takes an opportunity to venture west, it leads her to experience all the highlights and some of the lowlights of life in the field.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 13/04/2020

Rain birds return

Back in the 1970s, the skies over Perth used to blacken with the sight of Carnaby’s Cockatoos. The big noisy parrots flocked across the horizon in their thousands. These days they are few and far between.

Read More

BLOG 09/04/2020

Revegetation monitoring

It had been 16 years since our last visit to Chereninup Creek Reserve, for a National Tree Day planting. That cold and blustery day was the start of a revegetation program in the mega-diverse region between the Stirling Range and Fitzgerald River National Parks in southern WA.

Read More

BLOG 27/12/2019

Which is cuter – Honey or Pygmy Possum?

There’s some conjecture around which tiny marsupial is the cutest, Honey or Pygmy Possums. After seeing both popping up in the pitfall traps and nesting boxes blanketing the reserve, I can understand the debate. Over the course of five days myself and four other volunteers interacted with a broad cross-section of animals that had made homes for themselves in the newly revegetated areas.

Read More

BLOG 25/11/2019

Social spiders in possum nest boxes

Pygmy Possums quickly took up residence in the nest boxes we erected in restored habitat at our Monjebup North reserve in southwest WA. What we didn't expect were the large colonies of social spiders that also moved in!

Read More

BLOG 19/06/2019

A ray of hope for Carnaby's Cockatoo

Carnaby's Cockatoos are returning to restored farmland in Western Australia to feed just 5 years after planting.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 22/03/2019

Feral focus

How we’re working beyond our boundaries to control foxes and feral cats in south-west Western Australia.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 22/03/2019

In the field

The recent opening of the Michael Tichbon Field Station heralds a new era for Bush Heritage’s conservation work in the species-rich Fitz-Stirling region of the south-west.

Read More

BLOG 06/08/2018

Malleefowl mound in revegetation

Completely unaware of being watched, a pair of Malleefowl have been practising courtship displays on their new mound. We're very excited that they've made their home in 6-year-old revegetation on our Monjebup North property in south-west Western Australia.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 20/06/2018

Western Brush Wallabies return

Bush Heritage’s revegetation of 420 hectares on Monjebup North Reserve has seen the return of the poorly studied Western Brush Wallaby, known locally as the Black-gloved Wallaby or Kwoora.

Read More

BLOG 12/06/2018

Hello possums!

Our restoration on Monjebup North Reserve is bursting with life. This 450 hectares of former farmland sitting in the Gondwana Link pathway on the south coast of WA was revegetated over 3 years from 2012 to 2014 and we're now seeing some measurable benefits for wildlife.

Read More

BLOG 10/10/2017

Pygmy Possum bed & breakfast

In January this year volunteers Annie and Ian Mayo put up 20 Pygmy Possum nest boxes in the vegetation restoration area on Monjebup North Reserve in south-west Western Australia. The boxes were funded by a generous donation from a supporter to provide shelter and nesting sites for these tiny possums in the developing vegetation.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 05/10/2017

Turning back time

We're transforming bare paddocks into bush as part of one of Australia’s most ambitious revegetation projects – and the animals are coming back.

Read More

BLOG 22/02/2017

'Just a bit of bush'

Through the past three years we've had well-known and highly-respected South Coast botanist Libby Sandiford running a rolling vegetation survey across some of our Gondwana Link reserves. The information Libby has collated has surprised even us - we knew that what we're protecting and managing here is pretty special, but we didn't know quite how special.​

Read More

BLOG 20/02/2017

Return of the birds

A wide variety of birds are returning to our Monjebup North property, in the Gondwana Link pathway in southwest WA, just 4 years after the paddocks were seeded with native plants.

Read More

BLOG 19/10/2016

Kunzea newbeyi stronghold

The few hundred hectares of original bush on Monjebup North turn out to be what's almost certainly the world stronghold for the little-known Priority 1 species Kunzea newbeyi, which grows there in abundance. And it's the only one of the fewer than 5 sites from which the species is recorded that's secure.

Read More

BLOG 13/04/2016

A look at $8,000 worth of seed

Restoration on our Monjebup property in Gondwana Link, southwest Western Australia, has received a boost with donor support to establish food plants for the threatened Carnaby's Black Cockatoo. Eva Palmer is supporting a 3-year project to put more proteaceous plants back into the landscape for these birds. The initial phase was a trial of direct sowing by machine of proteaceous seed, which in the past has proved to be a big challenge because of the difficulty in collecting, treating and distributing the large seeds.

Read More

BLOG 25/01/2016

Mid-summer waterfall in south-west WA!

Yes, this is a waterfall, and yes this is the middle of summer in the southwest of Western Australia. Bill and Jane Thompson (our partners, whose Yarraweyah Falls​ property adjoins our Monjebup Reserve) had strict instructions to let me (Angela Sanders, Gondwana Link Ecologist) know if the waterfall on their property ever got going.

Read More

BLOG 07/08/2015

1,000 acres of restoration

With huge financial and other support from South Coast NRM, and bolstered by generous contributions from private donors, we've now all but completed 400 hectares - that's 1,000 acres - of restoration on the Monjebup North property we bought in 2009.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 20/03/2015

Dirt poor but rich in diversity

Ecologist Angela Sanders has been working on our Gondwana Link properties in the Fitz-Stirling region of Western Australia for 10 years. Monjebup Reserve is exceptionally rich in plant species and, in a twist of logic, poor soil (that is, low in nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorous) is one of the reasons.

Read More
Loading...
{{itemsInCart}} Items - {{formatCurrency(grandTotal)}}