Tightrope Act!

Tightrope Act!

#Taronga Zoo Sydney

Posted on 28th December 2011 by Media Relations

When most people think of the Bird Show, it is naturally birds that spring to mind, however the team is currently experimenting with something different. His name is ‘Richie’; he is seven months old and … is a Common Ring-tailed Possum!

‘Richie’ was hand-reared by one of the keepers because his mum wasn’t able to. She became his surrogate mum, and decided to name him after ‘Richard’, his surrogate dad.

Common Ring-tailed Possums share some of the same environmental problems as many birds that live in Australia, including habitat loss, particularly the loss of tree hollows. These hollows are mighty important because it is here that possums, owls and parrots will raise their young. In the absence of enough hollows, population numbers are dropping. Possums can also end up on the dinner plate from many Australian raptors, inextricably connecting the animals in the web of life.

‘Richie’ will not be used to demonstrate this ‘cycle of life’, but rather, if he proves to be star material, will demonstrate their amazing agility and ability to access hard to reach areas with his prehensile tail. With a prehensile tail ‘Richie’ can get his ‘Cliffhanger’ on, latching onto branches and ropes and competently descending to lower areas. It is an incredible adaptation.

There are many things ‘Richie’ will have to get used to out on stage, and today he was tested for the first time. Luckily for us, ‘Richie’ dealt with the people and birds flying over head really well, acting calmly the entire time. 'Just like our birds, 'Richie' has the finest in high-tech gadgetry! He is wearing a tracking transmitter which helps us keep track of 'Richie' when we can't see him'.

There is still a possibility ‘Richie’ will not make shows, but if that is the case he will be desensitised to many things and a fantastic addition to the Education team, so students can learn more about our native wildlife.

Being a nocturnal animal and coming out during the day is something many people ask about too, and this is not a concern for us at the Bird Show. Just like people can get used to being ‘night owls’, possums can get used to being up at this time. We are very lucky and excited to be working with ‘Richie’ and have high hopes for this tightrope, walking dare devil.