Eastern pygmy-possum (Cercartetus nanus) - vulnerable species listing

The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act, has made a Final Determination to list the Eastern Pygmy-possum Cercartetus nanus (Desmarest, 1818) as a VULNERABLE SPECIES on Schedule 2 of that Act. Listing of vulnerable species is provided for by Part 2 of the Act.

NSW Scientific Committee - final determination

The Scientific Committee found that:

1. The Eastern Pygmy-possum Cercartetus nanus (Desmarest, 1818) is a small arboreal marsupial that is distributed in the south-eastern corner of mainland Australia and in Tasmania. In New South Wales the species is found in coastal areas and at higher elevation in the south, but north of Newcastle at higher elevation only. Pygmy-Possums are agile climbers that feed mostly on the pollen and nectar from banksias, eucalypts and understorey plants and will also eat insects, seeds and fruit.

2. Although the Eastern Pygmy-possum is broadly distributed, recent studies have shown that within this range the species appears to be patchily distributed and its overall abundance is low.

3. Despite a large number of intensive trapping programs undertaken in the eastern forests and woodlands of New South Wales in recent years, only a small number of captures (154) have resulted from a total trapping effort of 315,000 Elliott trap-nights and 57,000 pitfall trap-nights (Bowen and Goldingay 2000).

4. Other detection techniques such as spotlighting, predator scat analysis, hair tubes and trapping in trees have produced similar low rates of detection. Capture rates are highest for installed nest-boxes and traps set in flowering banksias. This may reflect a habitat preference or a more successful trapping method.

5. From these and more recent studies (A. Tulloch, pers. comm.) there were only six, localities where more than 10 observations of Pygmy-Possums have been made. These were the Pilliga area, New England Tablelands, Barren Grounds Nature Reserve-Budderoo National Park, Royal and Heathcote National Parks, Kioloa State Forest and the Eden area.

6. The factors threatening the survival of the Eastern Pygmy-possum include isolated sub-populations with little opportunity for dispersal which increases the risk of local extinction, clearing that results in habitat loss and fragmentation, inappropriate fire regimes that remove nectar-producing understorey plants, the loss of nest sites due to past intensive forestry and firewood collection, and predation by foxes and cats.

7. In view of 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 above, the Scientific Committee is of the opinion that the Eastern Pygmy-possum Cercartetus nanus is likely to become endangered unless the circumstances and factors threatening its survival or evolutionary development cease to operate, and is therefore eligible for listing as a vulnerable species.

Proposed Gazettal date: 08/06/01
Exhibition period: 08/06/01 - 13/07/01


Bowen, M. and Goldingay, R. (1999) Distribution and status of the Eastern Pygmy Possum (Cercartetus nanus) in New South Wales. Aust Mammal. In press.

Turner, V. and Ward, S. (1995) Eastern Pygmy Possum Cercartetus nanus. In The Mammals of Australia, Ed. R. Strahan, pp 217-218. Reed Books: Sydney.