Sunday 13 May 2012


Since it's Mother's Day, I thought I'd write about Kiki. Kiki is the dominant female brushtail in the area (i.e. the Top Possum, because the females are always higher in the pecking order than the males).

Kiki is around four years old and has had six babies, which makes her the most successful mother brushtail we've seen so far.

Here's a recent photo:
Kiki (right) and Flea (left)

Here's the first photo we have of Kiki, poking her nose out of Leena's pouch.
Leena with Kiki in pouch Sept 2008
Here's Kiki surfacing like a shark under her mother to grab food out of her hand. This is pretty normal table manners for a baby brushtail; they will quite readily tear food out of their mother's mouths if given a chance.
Leena (top) and Kiki (bottom) October 2008

Kiki was chased off by her mother Leena when she grew up, but must have taken up residence somewhere nearby because she would occasionally come back to visit and show us her babies.

Her first baby was Fifi.
Kiki with Fifi in pouch Sept 2009

Kiki and Fifi visiting Box 3

In October 2009, Kiki suffered a horrible injury to the middle toe on her front left foot (or maybe I should say the middle finger on her left hand). We still don't know what happened, but when we saw it, the whole toe was dead and the foot red and swollen. We treated her with antibiotics. I'm not sure how the possum mind works, but it's as if she realised the medicine was helping her because she visited regularly for her dose, whereas she didn't visit regularly either before or afterwards. We tried to capture her to have the toe amputated but she eluded us and eventually the dead toe dropped off and healed over perfectly.

Kiki's next baby was Ninja. Kiki went out of her way to show us Ninja. When the photo below was taken, Kiki braved both Leena and Svejk to bring Ninja to us.
Ninja (left) and Kiki (centre) fighting off Svejk (right) March 2010
Ninja was a brave little possum. After this photo was taken, Kiki was chased away by Leena, but Ninja stayed behind and accepted food from the humans without hesitation, even though this was the first time she had come into contact with us.

In October 2010, Leena disappeared suddenly. It might be that she decided to leave the area, but I think it's more likely that she was killed because the disappearance was so sudden and she had left her barely-independent baby Java on her own.

Kiki then moved back into the area to take over Leena's territory. She had her next baby, Zorba, with her, but he was chased away fairly soon after and we don't have any pictures of them together.

Kiki's next baby was Piranha. Piranha was a particularly tough little possum. He's a photo of him with Kiki. You could just imagine him wearing a leather jacket and hanging out on a street corner looking cool.
Kiki (left) and Piranha (right)
It wasn't just an act. Here's a video of Piranha repelling the much larger Marlon from Box 5.

Epic Possum Fight: Piranha v Marlon

After Piranha came Lex. Lex was a long-legged athletic possum. He wasn't as fierce as Piranha, but we hoped he'd do well. Sadly, soon after he became independent, he was found dead in a neighbour's garage after apparently having been struck by a car.
Lex (top) and Kiki (bottom)

Kiki's latest baby is Flea. Here are a couple of photos of the pair taken by Xesce.
Flea (left) and Kiki (right)
Kiki (top) and Flea (bottom)
Kiki has a definite personality.

She will occasionally (usually when least expected) snatch fiercely at food with her claws and has drawn blood from unwary fingers a number of times. It could be she does this when she's annoyed, but at times it seems like a sort of possumish joke: "Ha ha! Got you that time!"

She patrols the possum boxes in the area and often performs a strange back-rubbing dance in a box that has recently been used by another possum. I assume it's a scent-marking thing to let the other possum know who's boss, but I'm not sure how it works because possums don't have any scent glands on their backs.

Kiki doing her back-rubbing dance

Incidentally, this video gets most of its hits from people searching for "rubbing dance" on YouTube. I'm not sure whether they go away disappointed or amused.

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