17 Jun Rani’s story
Rani came into care at ACT Wildlife, during the Pierces Creek bushfire. The fire burnt to the west of Canberra in the ACT.
A member of ACT Fire & Rescue service was fighting the fire when he caught sight of a baby Ringtail Possum scampering down a nearby tree. It raced towards him and climbed up his leg! Fortunately, the baby possum (later called Rani) appeared unscathed. Sadly, the burnt body of the baby’s Mum was found nearby.
That same burning day, a crew in a fire truck saw something move on the track just ahead of them. They pulled over, worried they might have run over it. What a relief it was to find a furry bundle huddled alive in the bottom of a pothole! It was another baby Ringtail. We named him Ryan after his rescuer.
Following a call to ACT Wildlife, possum carer, Michelle picked up both Ringtails from Ryan, the male Ringtail’s namesake. Both babies were incredibly dirty and smelt of smoke, but more worryingly, they were very dehydrated. It was a relief to see them drink copious amounts of water whenever it was offered. Slowly, inside a special incubator, these babies revived. Rani weighed 99 grams, Ryan a mere 60 grams.
In a couple of days, they were joined by Rhiannon, a Ringtail found near her mother and sibling, who had been run over on the road up Black Mountain. She weighed a relatively large 135grams and went on to become the group’s “big sister”. Her rescuer was Rhiannon, a member of the public who thankfully was observant enough to spot the little one on the road.
Over the summer, Michelle ended up with a group of seven Ringtails, but these three were particularly close. Ryan was always the baby, Rani rather reserved and shy, while Rhiannon was independent from the beginning, lapping her milk from a dish rather than feeding with a bottle. Although they each came into care in sad circumstances it was fortunate that they could form their own little colony.
Ringtails are social animals, living in groups, and cannot survive on their own. After about four months in care, Michelle and her husband Richard released them on Black Mountain, Rhiannon’s original home. Pierces Creek was unsuitable due to loss of habitat. They were released in an artificial drey (communal nest), made by Richard. We did our human best to mimic the type of nest wild Ringtails construct for themselves from leaves and twigs.
In Canberra, the Brushtail Possum is the dominant possum species and makes up more than 90% of the possums coming into our care. It was a wonderful experience to observe these special Ringtail Possums up close.