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Sophie Aubrey

Herald Sun. April 05, 2013.

IT might be our state faunal emblem, but the Leadbeater’s possum is battling for survival.

Once thought to be extinct, the possum was rediscovered in 1961.

But the Black Saturday bushfires took their toll, destroying almost half the possums’ habitat and culling the population from 2500 to less than 1000. To give a voice to these palm-sized possums, this week has been declared Leadbeater’s Awareness Week.

Healesville Sanctuary keeper Paula Watson said it was about getting Victorians to love their local species. ‘‘They’re sweet, gentle little creatures,’’ Ms Watson said. ‘‘A lot of people don’t realise they’re our faunal emblem, nor that they’re endangered.’’

Ms Watson is leading a breeding program to save the species and expects the first newborns to arrive ‘‘anytime now’’.

Celebrations will be held at 1pm tomorrow at Cambarville Picnic Ground near Healesville.

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