A remarkably quick habituation and high use of a rope bridge by an endangered marsupial, the western ringtail possum

Kaori Yokochi, Roberta Bencini

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    Rope bridges are being increasingly installed worldwide to mitigate the negative impacts of roads on arboreal animals. However, monitoring of these structures is still limited and an assessment of factors influencing the crossing behaviours is lacking. We monitored the use of a rope bridge near Busselton, Western Australia by the endangered western ringtail possums (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) in order to identify the patterns of use and factors influencing the crossings. We installed motion sensor cameras and microchip readers on the bridge to record the crossings made by individual animals, and analysed these crossing data using generalised linear models that included factors such as days since the installation of the bridge, breeding season, wind speed, minimum temperature and moonlight. Possums started investigating the bridge even before the installation was completed, and the first complete crossing was recorded only 36 days after the installation, which is remarkably sooner than arboreal species studied in other parts of Australia. The possums crossed the bridge increasingly over 270 days of monitoring at a much higher rate than we expected (8.87 ± 0.59 complete crossings per night). Possums crossed the bridge less on windy nights and warm nights probably due to the risk of being blown away and heat stress on warmer days. Crossings also decreased slightly on brighter nights probably due to the higher risk of predation. Breeding season did not influence the crossings. Pseudocheirus occidentalis habituated to the bridge very quickly, and our results demonstrate that rope bridges have a potential as an effective mitigation measure against the negative impacts of roads on this species. More studies and longer monitoring, as well as investigating whether crossing results in the restoration of gene flow are then needed in order to further assess the true conservation value of these crossing structures. Copyright Kaori Yokochi, Roberta Bencini.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)79-94
    JournalNature Conservation
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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