Busselton residents have been airing their views on local flora and fauna in a study by a Murdoch University student.
Sustainability and environmental management student Pip Marshall quizzed residents to assess their awareness and attitudes to the nationally threatened Western Ringtail Possum and the health-decline of the peppermint trees.
Ms Marshall said that she was overwhelmed by the community’s willingness to be involved in the survey.
“The threatened possums live so closely with people in the urban environment, gaining understanding of the community’s attitudes and perceptions towards the species is essential to their conservation management,” she said.
Ms Marshall conducted the survey during an internship at the Geographe Catchment Council (Geocatch) as part of her sustainability degree at Murdoch University. She worked in partnership with GeoCatch on their award winning ‘Peppies for Possoms’ program, which aims to increase environmental awareness and strategically rehabilitate and replace the peppermint tree habitat for the Western Ringtail Possums.
The survey revealed that most people had a good understanding of the need to protect possums in the region and many people regarded their furry neighbours very favourably.
However the survey showed most people were unaware of the concerning decline of peppermint trees in the region and the flow on effect of the decline on possum populations.
People were also unaware of the difficulties and low survival rate associated with moving the possums to new regions, with nearly a quarter of residents advocating the transfer of animals out of their neighbourhood.
The survey compared results between ten different areas around Busselton, and Ms Marshall found that in areas where GeoCatch had implemented community awareness programs, the residents were more aware of the importance of possums and had a much greater awareness of the threats posed to the species.
As a result of the survey, Ms Marshall recommends that future community awareness programs should include information about the health of peppermint trees and the issues with translocating possums.
“I think that any future community surveys by Geocatch should investigate the factors influencing people’s negative attitudes towards possums to assist with future environmental awareness programs.”
Ms Marshall said that as a student the experience with GeoCatch was invaluable to her professional development.
“It is great to see universities working in partnership with regional organisations to prepare future professionals for the workplace.”