Two morals – zoologist experience on recent fauna survey

While on a recent fauna survey in the South West of WA, we inspected some pit-traps that had been left in the ground for some time. When a survey is completed pit traps are to be closed or removed. If they are left in the ground, then occasionally lids can become displaced, break or cave in, and animals are then likely to fall into these traps and suffer a slow death or be eaten alive by maggots or other predators.

On this occasion, closed traps were being inspected to ensure that they had remained closed, and sadly some lids had been displaced and others had rusted. The upside to this story is that we found a couple of creatures alive.

 honey possum One particular honey possum that I found had maggots all over her body, in her ears, eyes, nose and even in her pouch. She had ants biting at all four paws. Being extremely weak she could hardly move and just lay in the middle of my hand, not even being able to lick the nectar when offered. I thought she was a goner and was considering having to euthanize her. As I picked off the ants and maggots, she actually began to perk up a little from the warmth of my hand. So we made the decision to keep her overnight to feed her honey water and get her strength back. Placing her into a catch bag with some eucalypt blossom we left her for an hour or so as we drove back to camp.

At camp I mixed honey with warm water and placed it into a bottle cap, to see if she is willing to drink. I then looked into the catch bag and was surprised to find her scurrying around from flower to flower. I picked her up and her belly was almost bursting with nectar. I couldn’t believe it: from thinking she was a goner to now looking like a perfectly healthy and happy honey possum. Straight away we took her back to where we found her and she happily latched onto the first flower we put her on.

This story has two morals, make sure pit traps are closed properly and regularly inspected or removed completely and always give animals the benefit of the doubt because they will always surprise you.

Thanks to Caitlin Couch for sharing this story

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