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Talia: Female, born around February 15, 2002 at Memphis Zoological Garden and Aquarium. She arrived at the Zoo on April 30, 2003.
Our pair of striped possums is found in the nocturnal section of the Small Mammal House. Take time for your eyes to adjust to the dark and you will see some remarkable species.
Small Mammal House
Striped possums are marsupials, which means that they carry their developing young in a pouch. They are slightly built and have bushy tails that are longer than their bodies. They are strikingly colored with a varying pattern of longitudinal stripes running from nose to tail. Their fingers and toes are long - very useful for life in the trees. They have some unusual characteristics that differentiate them from other possums. The fourth finger on each front paw is thin and elongated, their tongue is unusually long and their incisors project forward like chisels. These characteristics are similar to those of a totally unrelated species – the aye aye - a nocturnal lemur from Madagascar. Striped possums have the largest brain in relation to body size of any marsupial.
Striped possums typically live 5-7 years although they may reach 10 years in captivity.
Striped possums are nocturnal and live mainly in trees. Although they don’t have a gliding membrane, they are able to make long leaps from tree to tree with great precision. They spend most of the night foraging for insects which are their main source of food. They have a rather unusual hunting style where they travel along the branches tapping on the wood with their long, skinny middle finger. The tapping disturbs wood-boring grubs and the possums hear them moving. They then gouge into the wood with their chisel-like incisors and pull out the grubs. Their black and white coloration isn’t all that’s skunk-like about these animals. They have a strong, pungent odor that may be a deterrent to predators, although it can’t be sprayed like a skunk’s. They are very vocal and make a wide range of sounds including shrieks, growls and croaks. Such a wide range of vocalizations suggests that these animals are social, but they have not been well studied in the wild. Males are thought to be solitary, while females and juveniles have been found denning together.
Very little is known about the striped possum’s mating system in the wild. It is thought that males compete intensely for females, and that there is a breeding season (February-August in Australia and January-October in New Guinea). In captivity, only a few places have successfully bred this species, including the Philadelphia Zoo. When the animals are initially introduced there is some vocalizing and chasing, and they sleep in separate nestboxes. As they grow more accustomed to each other they begin to share the same nestbox. Because they are marsupials, the timing of the actual birth is often not known. Newborn joeys are quite small – less than 1 cm long – and the only way to know that the female has given birth is by checking her pouch. Once she gets used to the handling, the female often happily accepts a juicy mealworm while the keeper takes a look in her pouch. As the joey matures it stays in the pouch until it is fully furred and mobile. It will be deposited in the nestbox at first, and as it gets stronger it begins to ride on the mother’s back as she forages in the treetops.
Body length is 10” with a tail that is somewhat longer than the body.
10-20oz with an average of 15oz.
The striped possum is an omnivore consuming mainly wood boring insects in the wild, but also enjoys fruit and honey. This nocturnal marsupial lives high in trees and spends much of the night foraging. At the Zoo the possums receive a base diet that includes ground dog food and high fiber primate biscuit mixed with baby cereal, honey and water rolled into small balls. The possum mix provides the majority of the nutrients the animals require. The enrichment portion of the diet includes a variety of insects and fruit offered throughout the day to promote normal foraging behavior.
In Australia they are found in northeastern Queensland. They are also found in the lowlands and foothills of New Guinea.
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