About Sprites - A Children's Poem
About this children's poem...
I love possums. There I have said it. Possums are cute and friendly, and I am thankful that in Australia they are also a protected native animal. I have had a close relationship with possums since an early age when I first mistook the grunting of a male possum which was lurking outside my bedroom window for a Gremlin. Movies can be very impressionable on young children.
If I see a possum, and there is fruit at hand, I will try to feed it. I have fed families of possums by hand and sat with them in the garden as they have run around me. I've even had a possum follow me into the house.
There are all sorts of possums in Australia where I live, from the more common ring tail and brush tail varieties to the dainty sugar-gliders which I have also seen gliding between trees just outside my house.
A playful sprite
In a garden at night
Is delightful to watch from the house.
When a young baby possum
Lands flat on its bottom
While chasing his mother about.
Tousling and snacking
Or simply piggy backing
The possum's a bundle of fun.
It's cheeky and bright
But doesn't like light
And from any noise it will run.
With his pointy ears twitching
And his sloping snout sniffing
He smells the fruit in the trees.
With a dash and dart
Up the tree he will start
To feast on the fruit in the breeze.
Or, when playing with mum
Should another possum come
Creeping stealthily through the grass
With a crouch and a pounce
His mother will trounce
And chase it off to the pass.
A dozen more sprites
In my garden at night
Is a delightful event to see.
Not one or two
But quite a few
I'm sure you will agree.
Victoria's Leadbeater Possum
Australia’s wide variety of possums include the endangered, small Leadbeater Possum. The Leadbeater Possum belongs to the glider family which lives in colonies of two to twelve in a nocturnal, female matriarchal society. Nearly all Leadbeater possums can be found in mountain-ash and alpine-ash forests in the Victoria Central Highlands. Originally discovered in 1867 the Leadbeater Possum was first known as the Bass River Possum, and is sometimes referred to as the fairy possum.
Listed as extinct in 1909, the Leadbeater Possum’s rediscovery in 1961 led to it becoming Victoria’s mammal emblem alongside the Helmeted Honeyeater in 1971. Captive breeding programmes for the possum have not been successful. The last captive Leadbeater Possum died at Toronto Zoo in 2010. In 2012 a new breeding programme commenced. While captivity increases the lifespan of the possum, the programme has so far been unsuccessful in producing offspring.
Bush fires and humans continue to threaten the Leadbeatter’s habitat which relies on natural hollows in trees 100 to 200 years old for nesting and foraging. In 1939 a bush fire provided the Leadbeater Possum with ample hollowed trees for nesting. However, overtime these trees have declined and logging has reduced the number of younger trees that would normally replace them.
The possum or the timber industry
In 2009, fire from Victoria’s Black Saturday tore through a popular habitat supporting over an estimated forty-five percent of the Leadbeater Possum population. The forestry industry and governments bodies dispute the number of Leadbeatter Possums that exist in the wild, with conservationists estimating the number may be fewer than a thousand. Ending logging of Mountain Ash Forests used for nesting and foraging, seems to be the best solution for their continued existence.
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© 2010 Tina Dubinsky
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