Sunday 12 February 2017

Toto is Back!

Last night Toto appeared on the balcony handrail. This is the first time she has been seen in about six months.

Toto - 11th Feb 2017

She looks calm and is in very good condition, which is very encouraging.

She slept in Box 3 today, which might not have been a good idea because it reached 41.3 C in this box. This is the hottest temperature ever recorded in any of the possum boxes (with the exception of Box 6, which is an insulated box intended for Sugar Gliders and always seems to get hotter than the rest).

It is not clear whether the mysterious Marlowe has anything to do with Toto. They aren't the same possum (although I could easily have confused the two when sleeping in Box 1) because Marlowe is definitely male and Toto is female. It's possible Marlowe could be Toto's son.

If you don't recall Toto's history, here's a bit of a recap:

For a long time, Kiki was the Queen Possum here. She was in the area for seven years and was the dominant female for five of those years. In that time she had 13 babies. In 2015, when she was still nursing her second-to-last baby, Toto, a larger female possum, Sasha, moved into the area.

By late 2015, Toto had grown up and we had the unusual situation where there were three adult females in the area. Normally there would only be one.

Soon afterwards, Kiki disappeared. There seemed to be three possibilities; Kiki had met with an accident, Kiki had abandoned the area in favour of her daughter Toto (apparently female brushtails sometimes do this), or that she had been chased out of the area by Sasha. Kiki was seemingly a fixture in the area and was fierce enough to chase off pythons, so she must have had a pretty strong motivation to leave.

For what it's worth, Sasha's young baby Puck also disappeared around this time, so there could have been all sorts of unpleasant things going on.

For a while, Toto lived uneasily in the area with Sasha. She was forced to squeeze into the ceiling space were Sasha couldn't get at her and she lost at least one of her babies. She generally managed to evade attacks by Sasha, but it was obvious that this situation couldn't continue and in August 2016 she disappeared.

The local neighbourhood is getting increasingly unsafe for possums (more trees chopped down, more houses built, more traffic etc.) and it's aways a worry when a possum has to leave. If the larger, fiercer and more experienced Kiki had had problems, then things were going to be very difficult for little Toto.

So it's a relief to find that Toto has not just survived but is strong and healthy and feeling confident enough to return to the area, even if just for a short visit.

Finally, here's a photo of Ruby and Niva taken the same night.

Ruby with Niva back-riding - 11th Feb 2017


  1. So happy to find Toto is back in your garden, she looks well, I wonder where she went, was one long holiday. Mine to are loving some red grapes.

  2. Hi
    I just viewed your boxes, they are nearly all full, is this normal at this time of year... or do you think this could be because of all the destruction happing in your area, it angers me so much to know what's going on around you, it must be so hard to live there at times, as you know I can relate to what you are going through, it's just devastating seeing trees come down and wild life habitats destroyed, it just keeps on going, all your possums are so very lucky you continue to stay where you are, you are there hope for survival, i have thought about packing up and selling at times with what i see and continue to fight for, but i don't as i know at least my protected property is a safe haven and the ones who have claimed this territory know it, they are smart little creatures.

    1. I was amazed to see five possums in the boxes, especially considering Box 6 is a sugar glider box that the possums can't get into, so there are really only five possum boxes.

      I have never been to track down any common factor on why possums use boxes when they do. Different possums seem to have different schedules and all of them are unpredictable. Maybe some day when I have the energy I could go over the records (all of the box usage and temperature data is recorded in a database on the possum TV server, so this is quite possible to do) and see if there's any correlation to temperature or season, but my feeling is that it's pretty random.

      I'm not sure what part habitat destruction is playing in what's happening at the moment. There hasn't been any recent destruction happening nearby that I'm aware of. All of the possums in the boxes with the exception of Toto were locals, and there doesn't seem to be an influx of refugee possums into the area - but it's easy for possums to hide in the garden and if they don't visit the house or sleep in the boxes, I won't see them.

      Regarding habitat destruction, I'm quite scared about what might happen if the developers turn their greedy eyes to some of some of the properties close by. There's currently a tree canopy which extends quite a distance away from Possum TV and wildlife can come and go fairly easily. If the developers get their hands on one property in particular, Possum TV could end up isolated, with possums having to brave power lines and increasingly busy roads to get in or out. I can't imagine this would be anything other than disastrous.