Burramys parvus 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Diprotodontia Burramyidae

Scientific Name: Burramys parvus
Species Authority: Broom, 1896
Common Name(s):
English Mountain Pygmy Possum, Broom's Pygmy-possum, Burramys
French Souris-opossum De Burramys, Souris-opossum Des Montagnes
Spanish Lirón Marsupial
Taxonomic Source(s): Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D.M. (eds). 2005. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographical Reference. Third edition. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B1ab(iii,v)+2ab(iii,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Menkhorst, P., Broome, L. & Driessen, M.
Reviewer(s): Lamoreux, J. & Hilton-Taylor, C. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Listed as Critically Endangered because its extent of occurrence is less than 100 km², its area of occupancy is less than 10 km², the population is severely fragmented, and there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat and in the number of mature individuals.
Previously published Red List assessments:
1996 Endangered (EN)
1994 Endangered (E)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Mountain Pygmy Possum is endemic to south-eastern Australia where it occurs as three isolated, genetically distinct populations: 1) between Mt. Bogong and Mt. Higginbotham, Victoria 2) at Mt. Buller, Victoria and 3) in the Kosciuszko region of New South Wales (Osborne et al. 2000). Its range is much smaller than the mapped distribution, and its area of occupancy is estimated to be less than 6 or 7 km² (Heinze et al. 2004; Broome 2008). This species ranges in elevation from 1,300 to 2,228 m asl (Broome 2008).
Countries occurrence:
Australia (New South Wales, Victoria)
Lower elevation limit (metres):1300
Upper elevation limit (metres):2228
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Common where they occur, but declining. The total population is estimated to number approximately 1,700 adult females and 550 adult males (Broome 2008).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This is the only Australian mammal species confined to alpine environments (Broome 2008). They occur in periglacial boulder fields (basalt, granite, granodiorites) overlain with mountain plum-pine Podocarpus lawrenceii heathland and adjacent alpine communities. The basalt boulderfields have the greatest population density. Mountain Pygmy Possums are nocturnal and terrestrial, but they are also adept climbers. It has a spring-summer diet composed predominantly of Bogong moths Agrotis infusa and other invertebrates with seeds and fruits important in late summer and autumn (Mansergh and Broome 1994). Females normally have one litter of 4 young following snowmelt in spring. All individuals accumulate subcutaneous fat during late summer and autumn and spend the winter in hibernation (about 7 months for adults and 5 months for juveniles; Geiser and Broome (1991)). Snow cover provides important insulation and protection to hibernating animals.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The extremely restricted habitat has been fragmented or destroyed by road construction, dam/aqueduct construction, and development of infrastructure for the downhill skiing industry. Approximately 50% of the habitat supporting the Mt. Bogong-Mt. Higginbotham population and 20% of the Kosciuszko habitat was burned in bushfires in January 2003, killing Podocarpus heathland aged from 50-400 years (L. Broome pers. comm.). The population at Mt. Buller suffers from fragmentation and subpopulations here and around ski resorts in the Kosciuszko area have declined severely since 2000 due to: habitat destruction, predation by feral cats, and possibly low snow cover. Predation by the introduced Red Fox is also a threat and the habitat is subject to weed invasion (e.g., willow Salix species). Bogong moths are migratory and have been found to carry arsenic from their breeding grounds in the Murray-Darling Basin to the mountains where it accumulates in food chains. Arsenic has been found in the scats of B. parvus and other small mammals, but the implications of this are as yet unknown (Green et al. 2001).

Marginalisation and loss of habitat and the severity of predation are predicted to increase with global warming. A recent trend of second litters following early snow melt has been observed at Mt. Buller (D. Heinze pers. comm.). Neither second litters nor their mothers are known to survive the winter because they are unable to accumulate the fat reserves necessary for successful hibernation through winter.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The entire extent of the species' range is in protected areas, though important parts (and all of the Mt. Buller population) are in ski-resort lease areas. Government-endorsed management plans exists in Victoria (Mansergh et al. 1989) and New South Wales (NSW 2002), and a national recovery plan is being prepared. The recovery objectives for this species (Maxwell et al. 1996; NSW 2002), include: conserve all remaining habitat and maintain it in a condition to support existing population levels; restore or re-create habitat in areas of disturbance; define habitat and population levels in Buller-Stirling area (Victoria) and reassess total population size and distribution of habitat in New South Wales; control feral predators and exotic species; monitor populations and habitat; define source and sink populations, understand genetic interrelationships and produce a metapopulation dynamics model; review threatening processes and predict the probability of long-term persistence in the wild; determine the feasibility of a viable captive breeding program; promote community awareness.

Recovery actions completed or underway include: distribution and abundance is well defined, general ecology and population dynamics have been studied at five sites over the last 20 years and additional sites over the last 10 years. Monitoring of populations, diet, food supply (Bogong moths and seeds) and habitat in ski resorts and control areas and consequent on-ground protection and planning is ongoing; protocols that provide protection to populations have been developed within some ski resorts, legislative and operational protection of all habitat needs to be finalised. Habitat restoration is occurring in fragmented, burnt, and disturbed areas in ski resorts. Feral cat, fox, rabbit, and weed control has been initiated in some areas; genetic studies are nearing completion; establishment of a captive colony of the Mt. Buller population is under consideration.

Studies required include: determine effects of the ski industry (notably use of snow-grooming equipment over habitat) and loss of snow cover on hibernation and over-winter survival; investigate Bogong moth population dynamics and pesticide residues, the possibility of competition or predation by co-occuring small mammal species, social dynamics, reproductive success, and captive husbandry techniques; continue research aimed at producing reliable metapopulation dynamics and viability models.

Classifications [top]

3. Shrubland -> 3.7. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical High Altitude
suitability: Suitable  
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
2. Land/water management -> 2.2. Invasive/problematic species control
2. Land/water management -> 2.3. Habitat & natural process restoration
3. Species management -> 3.4. Ex-situ conservation -> 3.4.1. Captive breeding/artificial propagation

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Systematic monitoring scheme:Yes
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
  Percentage of population protected by PAs (0-100):100
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
1. Residential & commercial development -> 1.3. Tourism & recreation areas
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

4. Transportation & service corridors -> 4.1. Roads & railroads
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.1. Fire & fire suppression -> 7.1.1. Increase in fire frequency/intensity
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

7. Natural system modifications -> 7.2. Dams & water management/use -> 7.2.11. Dams (size unknown)
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

8. Invasive & other problematic species & genes -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species -> 8.1.2. Named species (Felis catus)
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Unknown ♦ severity: Unknown ⇒ Impact score: Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

8. Invasive & other problematic species & genes -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species -> 8.1.2. Named species (Vulpes vulpes)
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Unknown ♦ severity: Unknown ⇒ Impact score: Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

8. Invasive & other problematic species & genes -> 8.1. Invasive non-native/alien species -> 8.1.2. Named species
♦ timing: Ongoing ♦ scope: Unknown ♦ severity: Unknown ⇒ Impact score: Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.1. Habitat shifting & alteration
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.8. Other

1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Broome, L.S. 2008. Mountain Pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus. In: S. Van Dyck and R. Strahan (eds), The mammals of Australia. Third Edition, pp. 210-212. Reed New Holland, Sydney, Australia.

Geiser, F. and Broome, L. S. 1991. Hibernation in the Mountain Pygmy-possum Burramys parvus (Marsupialia). Journal of Zoology (London) 223: 593-602.

Green, K., Broome, L., Heinze, D. and Johnston, S. 2001. Long distance transport of arsenic by migrating Bogong Moths from agricultural lowlands to mountain ecosystems. Victorian Naturalist 118: 112-116.

Heinze, D., Broome, L. and Mansergh, I. 2004. A review of the ecology and conservation of the mountain pygmy-possum Burramys parvus. In: R. L. Goldingay and S. M. Jackson (eds), The Biology of Australian Possums and Gliders, pp. 254-267. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton, Oxford, UK.

IUCN. 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

Mansergh, I. M. and Broome, L. S. 1994. The Mountain Pygmy-possum of the Australian Alps. New South Wales University Press, Sydney, Australia.

Mansergh, I. M., Kelly, P. and Scotts, D. J. 1989. Management strategy and guidelines for the conservation of the Mountain Pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus) in Victoria. Arthur Rylah Institute Environmental Research Technical Report. Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands, Melbourne, Australia.

Maxwell, S., Burbidge, A. A. and Morris, K. 1996. The 1996 Action Plan for Australian Marsupials and Monotremes. Australasian Marsupial and Monotreme Specialist Group, IUCN Species Survival Commission, Gland, Switzerland.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. 2002. Approved Recovery Plan for the Mountain Pygmy-possum, Burramys parvus. New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hurstville, New South Wales.

Osborne, M. J., Norman, J. A. Christidis, L. and Murray, N. D. 2000. Genetic distinctness of isolated populations of an endangered marsupial, the mountain pygmy-possum, Burramys parvu. Molecular Ecology 9: 609-613.

Citation: Menkhorst, P., Broome, L. & Driessen, M. 2008. Burramys parvus. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T3339A9775825. . Downloaded on 26 November 2015.
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