Possum patients blossom

Possum patients blossom

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WA Wildlife Hospital Manager Karen Clarkson with her possum patient, Gilbert.

A pair of possums got a second chance at life thanks to a combined effort of care and conservation, after a bushfire tore through the Hilbert reserve on Christmas Day last year.
Firefighters tackling the blaze alerted local resident Kelly Thatcher, who was searching the area for injured animals and captured the two injured animals before transporting them to WA Wildlife Hospital for emergency care.
WA Wildlife Hospital Manager Karen Clarkson said that while one of the possums, an adult female that carers nicknamed Blossom, was in relatively good condition, the second of the pair, an adult male named Gilbert, was in critical condition.
“All his fur was singed, he had second degree burns to feet, ventral aspect of tail, nose and ears,” Ms Clarkson said.
“He had superficial corneal ulceration in his right eye, some of his nails were damaged and blistering was present in all hands.
“He was given emergency care including IV fluids, pain relief, medications, his feet and tail were cleaned and dressed, and he remained in supportive care due to the seriousness of his injuries.”
A week after he was admitted, staff removed Gilbert’s IV and began a diligent program of care, which included cleaning and redressing the poor possum’s wounds under anaesthetic every two days.
On January 8 the patient was taken to rehabilitate off-site, but continued to attend the animal hospital to have his wounds cleaned and bandages changed.
“In mid-January his wounds had improved enough to have the bandages removed permanently, however, the wounds required creams to be applied three times a day,” Ms Clarkson said.
“During this time Gilbert was the perfect patient and allowed his carers to apply the cream to his burns with a minimum of fuss and a blueberry as a reward.”
The plucky possum showed signs of improvement over the following weeks, and at the beginning of March was able to enjoy the companionship of his pal, Blossom, spending time reigniting their friendship in pre-release enclosures filled with plenty of tree branches for the pair to practice climbing.
The enclosures were fitted with possum boxes made by Year 10 students at Carey Baptist College as part of a community services program at the school that had been donated to the City of Armadale.
Having spent six months under meticulous care, the possum pair is ready to be outpatients, and are set to be released back to their home reserve this week.
The release will be conducted by Senior Environmental Officer from the City of Armadale Corrine Omacini and local conservation superstar Simon Cherriman, who will be placing the possum boxes they used as rehabilitation centres into trees at the reserve, in the hopes they will continue to use them in the wild.
Armadale Mayor Ruth Butterfield said she is delighted that the city has been able to assist with Gilbert and Blossom’s reintroduction to the wild.
“The city has a longstanding relationship with Carey College and we’re so appreciative of the students help to construct habitat boxes that support the fauna program.
“Thanks to the countless hours spent by wildlife carers, Gilbert and Blossom can return to their natural habitat.
“Our Environmental Officers will install cameras near the release site in the hope of capturing images of the brush tailed possums’ recovery post-reintroduction to the wild and to track their progress.
“It’s great that the city has been able to partner with WA Wildlife and Carey College to achieve this small but valuable local conservation achievement.”