The Mt Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Zoos Victoria have recently completed a tunnel under the Great Alpine Road, which aims to provide safe passage between two groups of critically endangered Mountain Pygmy-possums. The populations are separated by the road and this reduces the chances of the species remaining viable in the Mt Little Higginbotham area.

The Mt Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board reports:

The $230,000 project, which was completed last month, saw the construction of a rocky corridor under the Great Alpine Road.

The Mountain Pygmy-possum is Australia’s only hibernating marsupial. The species was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered at Mt Hotham during the 1960s. There are an estimated 2000 possums left in the wild.

DELWP Natural Environment Program Officer Jerry Alexander said “The project is being undertaken as part of the species’ recovery plan which also includes habitat restoration and predator control programs.

“At Mt Little Higginbotham, the Great Alpine Road currently acts as a barrier for movement of possums from one side of the road to the other.

“Female Mountain Pygmy-possums generally live in higher altitude, better quality habitat with deep boulder fields, while the males typically live lower down the slope.

“We are making it easier and safer for the males to travel and breed with the females, by linking their habitats.

“By increasing breeding opportunities, habitat restoration and predator control, we are giving this critically endangered species the best possible chance to thrive.”

Mt Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board, Technical Services and Environment Officer, Georgina Boardman, said “A similar project was undertaken during the 1980s which had successfully increased breeding opportunities.

“The Board is working in partnership with the Victorian Government and Zoos Victoria to preserve and enhance existing habitat, provide movement corridors and ensure that future development does not have an adverse impact on the species.”

Biodiversity 2037 is Victoria’s plan to stop the decline of our native plants and animals and improve our natural environment so it is healthy, valued and actively cared for.

[IMAGE: by Dean Heinze, via Mt Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board]