Leadbeater's Possum - Des Hackett and the Blackburn possums
Des Hackett played an important role in the early attempts to conserve Leadbeater's possum and became the first person to successfully breed the possum in his Blackburn backyard in the early 1970's.
In many ways, Des Hackett was an unlikely person to end up being involved in the conservation of the possum and chance played a significant role. He was given a sugar glider to care for and decided to find it a mate. He looked for the gliders in Mountain Ash forests around Noojee. After cutting down several trees, he eventually found a tree containing what he believed were Sugar Gliders and took them home only to be told by a more knowledgeable friend that he had collected Leadbeater's possums!
After some unsuccessful attempts, Hackett eventually bred the possums and worked out a suitable diet and housing arrangement for the possums. For several years, he kept the news of his Leadbeater's possum colony secret. However, he was later given a permit to keep his possums and his work became well known to Government and University scientists studying Leadbeater's possum.
By 1980, Hackett had spent 17 years looking after the possums and he approached the Government looking for a suitable zoo that could look after the possums in his colony. Correspondence on the Fisheries and Wildlife Division file 93/77/12 "Conservation of Leadbeater's possum" covers the period 1980-1984 when Hackett was arranging the dispersal of his colony to zoos around Australia.
During his life, Hackett kept notes of his efforts to breed the possums and after his death, the notes passed to Peter Preuss who edited them and published them in the book "Born to be wild". This book has information about Hackett's successful breeding of sugar gliders and includes information about Hackett from the period before and after the letters on this page.