Leadbeater's Possum Account of rediscovery

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Leadbeater's Possum Account of rediscovery is associated with Cambarville Victoria located at these coordinates -37.5579634, 145.881679

Following the discovery of Leadbeater's Possum in 1961, R M Warneke from the Fisheries and Wildlife Division wrote a report detailing the rediscovery of the possum.

Record Citation: PROV VPRS 11559/P1/311
Record URL: http://www.access.prov.vic.gov.au/public/component/daPublicBaseContainer?component=daViewSeries&entityId=11559
Agency: VA 551
Agency URL: http://access.prov.vic.gov.au/public/component/daPublicBaseContainer?component=daViewAgency&entityId=551
Date: 31/7/1962
Record Type: Report
Event Type:
Language: en
Copyright URL: http://prov.vic.gov.au/copyright
Related Resource URL: [http://museumvictoria.com.au/about/mv-blog/apr-2011/lost-and-found/lost-and-found-rediscovery-of-leadbeaters-possum/%0Ahttp://wiki.prov.vic.gov.au/index.php/Conservation_of_Leadbeater%27s_Possum http://museumvictoria.com.au/about/mv-blog/apr-2011/lost-and-found/lost-and-found-rediscovery-of-leadbeaters-possum/


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User Tags: leadbeater's possum, eric wilkinson, fauna survey group, field naturalists club of victoria, charles brazenor, museum of victoria, norman wakefield, tommy's bend, cambarville, robert m warneke, mr butcher, mr brazenor

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Page 0.jpg Notes on thee Rediscovery of Leadbeater's Possum

Gymnobelideus leadbeateri McCoy

First discovered in July 1867 in the Bass Valley of South Gippsland.

Named by Prof. Sir Fredrick McCoy after John Leadbeater, then taxidermist of the National Museum.

Only five specimens were known prior to 1961 - no trace since 1909, before which time specimens were collected and lodged in the National Museum.

In 1921 Prof. Baldwin Spencer announced extinct in Bass Valley.

Extensive searches did not disclose presence. Listed as "extinct or almost certainly extinct" by Ratcliffe and Calaby 1960.

Rediscovered by H. E. Wilkinson on 3rd April, 1961 in the Cumberland Valley, eleven miles east of Maryville - well known tourist locality.

More than fifteen sightings have been made in the same district recently.

One recently shot specimen is lodged in the National Museum and one live male specimen is held in captivity for observation.

It is considered that the animal may be present in reasonable numbers over a wide area and that it may be far removed from extinction.

(Extracted from an article by H. E. Wilkinson in the Victorian Naturalist. 78(4) Aug. 1961, pp. 97-102.)

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Page 1.jpg DRAFT


Sequence of events re Leadbeaters Possum rediscovery

(1) Announcement of rediscovery by Eric Wilkinson at meeting of Fauna Survey Group (F.N.C.V.) on April 13th. Keith Dempster attended. Eric is a member of the group and has been observing the fauna of Healsville and surrounding districts by spotlighting at night for some time, before the formation of the Fauna Survey Group.

Since the first sighting (at Cumberland) he has sighted similar animals a number of times and had been able to take kodachromes.

At this stage there was little doubt as to then identity of the animal but there was the possibility of a new species.

(2) Through Keith and myself Eric requested a permit to trap a specimen to enable positive identification. At this stage Eric asked that the news of the rediscovery be kept quiet and Mr. Butcher was agreeable to this. A permit was issued to the Fauna Survey Group (Wakefield is the Leader) enabling them to trap all species of the sub-family Phalangerinae.

Mr. Butcher's faith in Wakefield is probably responsible in some measure for the wide terms of the permit. The Group now has authority to handle all species of the -


Dasyuridae (I think)


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(3) Wilkinson decided that Brazenor should be told as he is a member of the Museum Staff, assistant to Gill the palaeontologist. He showed Brazenor his photographs but Brazenor was not convinced and uttered the famous statement, "I don't think they look like that". He ordered John Coventry, in company with Wilkinson, to collect a specimen.

(4) I am not sure of the date but a female was obtained, shot, on or about May 11th and lodged in a freezer at the Museum. This confirmed the rediscovery.

(5) Mr. Butcher, while attending a meeting at the Museum, was handed a note by Brazenor which said, "my boys have got a Leadbeaters possum". This was the first Mr. Butcher knew of this and was rather taken aback as he thought that the Fauna Survey Group i.e. Wilkinson had intended to work under the Group's permit. I understand that the informed Brazenor on the spot that no further specimens were to be shot.

(6) Both Coventry and Wilkinson, under Brazenor's orders spent a week at Marysville with traps but with no success. Wilkinson was a bit upset at the turn of events but could not object officially to the shooting of the specimen and was forced to go along with Brazenor.

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(7) Statements on radio and T.V. by Brazenor but poorly presented and were not informative.

(8) Wilkinson requested an interview with Mr. Butcher one night after work and at this interview he explained his position regarding the shooting of the specimen. He asked that he be allowed to keep a live specimen at his home in the event of one being captured. He described the facilities that he had at his home i.e. a large outdoor aviary. Mr. Butcher agreed to this.

(9) A male Leadbeaters possum was caught by hand by wakefield and myself on the night of May 20th. It was housed at the Wildlife laboratory until the 30th, at which time it was handed over to Wilkinson.

The circumstances of its capture were these.

At about 11.00 o'clock on Saturday night the possum was observed on the trunk of a Mountain Ash sapling at the side of the road at a place called Tommy's Bend about 6 miles up the road from Marysville, not far from the Lake Mountain turn off. It was approached from both sides while held in the beams of two spotlights. It "froze" about 5 feet from the ground, head down and flattened along the trunk. Wakefield grabbed it. At no time did it attempt to bite and subsequently has proved to be a most docile animal. In its movements it is surprisingly similar to a Brushtailed phascogale, being very active and agile, jumping 5 to 6 feet from one branch to another

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with great ease and accuracy. During the time it was in the laboratory it was offered a wide variety of foods but only showed a marked preference for honey, either diluted or on bread. Up to the present is has showed no interest in insects (meal worms) although on the night of its capture it ate the body of a moth, leaving wings, head and thorax.

(10) At the present time the specimen is at Wilkinsons home and appears to be thriving on a honey diet. Wakefield has expressed his doubts that any further purpose is being served by Wilkinson retaining the specimen any longer. He informed me that Wilkinson is in the habit of taking the possum around with him in his pocket on odd occasions, eg. he had it at the last meeting of the Fauna Survey Group on July 20th. As his stated intention was to observe the habitat of a mammal, this handling may affect the possum's behaviour.

(11) To my knowledge the only report of the rediscovery that appeared in the newspapers was that by Lindsay in the Age recently. Two statements appeared in the Department's Newsletter.

The number of sightings of Leadbeaters possum in the wild must by now total 15 or more. Nearly all of these have been in the vicinity of Tommy's Bend and all but one of these have been made from the main road so that it appears that a flourishing colony occupies the Mountain Ash, - Messmate, - Wattle association in this particular area.

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Other fauna species abundant in the same area.

Greater Glider - Schoinobates volans

Lesser Glider - Petaurus breviceps

Feathertailed Glider - Aerobates pygmaeus

Mountain possum - Pseudocheirus laniginosus

Yellow-footed Phascogale - Antechinus flavipes

Allied rat - Rattus assimilis

I have made 4 trips to the area accompanied on each occasion by N. Wakefield.

20.5.61 - 22.5.61

8.7.61 - 9.7.61


28.7.61 - 29.7.61

R. M. Warneke


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