Little Ella Erasmus, 9, is digging deep for possums, giving an entire year’s worth of pocket money for Western Ringtail Possum conservation work.
The Year 4 student from Margaret River Montessori School said she loves the cute and furry native critters, and wanted to help when she learned they were critically endangered. Now, she and her family plan to take part in the 8th annual Ringtail Tally, a citizen science project surveying possums, starting April.
Her father Gerhard Erasmus said Ella was inspired to donate to possum conservation after hearing a talk by Nature Conservation Margaret River Region’s Environmental Education Officer Lauren Scanlon, who works on the Our Patch project educating local school children about nature and conservation. “Ella was really inspired after hearing Lauren’s talk at school. She’s very fond of animals and feels very strongly about conservation. She’s already thinking about a career working with animals.”
Ella said Lauren’s talk made her feel “sad that Western Ringtail Possums are endangered but happy to know I can help them”. She said she was pleased to give her pocket money to a good cause, while her friends thought her donation was “pretty cool”.
“I really like possums because they can climb trees and they’re nocturnal. We’ve got two at school and I’ve seen another one in the bush. When I grow up I definitely want to work with animals,” she said.
Ms Scanlon said she was “blown away” when she learned that Ella wanted to donate a year’s worth of pocket money to Western Ringtail Possum conservation. “It was so heartening to hear that from her learning in the Our Patch Montessori program, Ella was inspired to make a difference. Her donation will contribute to research and conservation right here in the Margaret River Region,” she said.
“The Our Patch program, with the incredible support of local schools, is able to reach hundreds of young people across the shire. We hope that young people feel a real sense of understanding and connection to this very special place, and feel empowered to contribute to enhancing and protecting the natural environment. This unique program gets children out on country, to observe, learn and think about how they might protect these unique ecosystems,” Ms Scanlon said.
It’s estimated that the remaining population size in the wild is less than 8,000 mature individuals, with a decreasing trend. Recent research predicts there is a very high chance they could be extinct within 20 years if action to protect populations and their habitat isn’t enacted immediately.
Margaret River Montessori School principal Lisa Fenton said Ella embodied the school’s ethos of “taking inspiration from learning and turning it into real action for the greater good of humanity and the world around us”. “The kids… are really passionate about the possums that live on our site, especially everyone’s favourite, Jeff, who lives happily in the bush by our front office,” she said.
“Thanks to Our Patch and the deep and rich learning that our staff take from their engagement with the program and embedding it into the rest of our school’s learning activities, the children all understand, not only the reasons we care for our native plant life and preserve habitats, but actually how to carry out this custodianship and the importance of speaking up and sharing their knowledge with others as advocates for the wildlife in our area and beyond – just as Ella has done.”
Register for the 2022 Ringtail Tally at https://natureconservation.org.au/ringtail-tally-2022/
The Western Ringtail Possum project is delivered by Nature Conservation Margaret River Region, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, in partnership with South West Catchments Council, and Shire of Augusta Margaret River through the Environmental Management Fund.
The Our Patch program is funded by the Shire of Augusta Margaret River’s Environmental Management Fund, Cowaramup Lion’s Club, Margaret River Rotary Club, Paskeville Foundation and participating schools.
Pictured (from left to right) are NCMRR’s Lauren Scanlon, Margaret River Montessori School principal Lisa Fenton, Ella and her dad Gerhard Erasmus, NCMRR’s Peta Lierich.