My pet possum

Case for replacing conventional pets with native species in Australia.

source: Stephanie Pain
based on interview with Michael Archer
director, Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia
New Scientist April 29 1999
starts p40, 4 pages long

Australia has unique animals, and its native species are disappearing. One way of preserving them could be for Australians to keep suitable native species as pets instead of cats and dogs. Suitable animals include quolls, rodents, and some smaller possums. People tend to value animals more once they get to know them as pets. Quolls are clean, playful, and friendly. They bond with people when raised as young animals, and wake up when owners come home from work in the evening. They are also good mousers. Tasmanian devils would perform well as guard animals. Quolls are sociable, as are sugar gliders, though kangaroos and wombats are less sociable, and the adults tend to be indifferent to humans. Antechinus is an unsuitable species for a pet, since it bites a lot.

Vets are building up understanding of Australian native animals. Regulations vary from state to state in Australia, and endangered and rare animals cannot be kept unless it is for research. Marsupials can be bought in the US, where an industry is developing around them. Cats damage the environment and kill native animals, and should ideally be shipped away from Australia. Native animals could be bred using registered breeders and managed colonies, with young animals sold to the public to raise funds for conservation.