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23 January 2007

Possum Problem

Go to Adelaide to find out why possums are driving people crazy, and why people are driving the possums away.

DEB KELLY (DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT): A lot of people think they're the most magic animal on Earth and others just think they're an ordinary pest and get rid of them as quickly as you can.

MANFRED HEIDE (POSSUM RESCUER): By the time your children have children there may not be any of these animals left any more. You can say 'When I was a kid there were possums everywhere, now I can only show you a picture'. Now, what sort of indictment would that be on our society?

PAUL McCARTHY: There are two types of possum commonly found around Adelaide: the brush-tailed and the ring-tailed, but it's the brush-tail's friendliness to humans that's proving to be a fatal attraction.

DEB KELLY: The little ring-tailed possums tend not to get in the way of people so much. They don't go into roofs, they don't get into paths of cars as often. So that the brush-tails have adapted very well to humans. They like our roofs as nesting hollows, and so they tend to be around cars and dogs and all those other nasty factors.

PAUL McCARTHY: There are plenty of people who'd be happy to see their demise, especially when these noisy nocturnal creatures eat prize roses and invade homes.

A dozen possums had to be removed from this house in suburban Norwood after they chewed through the ceiling.

DAVID BENNETT (POSSUM SOLUTIONS): They also eat your electrical wiring when they get iron deficiency for certain parts of the year; they'll eat the whites off the wires so, you know, there's chances are you'll have an electrical fire in your roof.

MANFRED HEIDE: Come you on lot. Food time. Ooh, you're a clever girl. You're a clever possum. And do you know, they call you common. Common brush-tail. You're not as common as you used to be.

PAUL McCARTHY: Manfred Heide is a retired engineer with a passion for native wildlife. He's devoted much of his life to helping animals in distress and, if you find an injured possum somewhere, chances are it will end up in his backyard sanctuary in the hills. He's often called out if there's a possum problem but he says it's not usually the possum that's the problem.

MANFRED HEIDE: And if we have possums in the suburbs we ought to cherish them and, if one does get into your roof and carries on as if he's walking around with hobnailed boots all over your roof, you may not have a possum problem, as people describe it, you may have a maintenance problem.

PAUL McCARTHY: Possums are very territorial and once removed are likely to find a new home nearby, hopefully in a tree or nesting box. While relocating them to another area might seem a good idea, it won't fix the problem and it could prove fatal for the urban possum.

MANFRED HEIDE: You take a possum from somebody's roof and you don't fix up the hole where it came in and, within a week, there is another possum who found that hole and is back in the same roof space because it's now a vacant space. The possum you have taken out has taken over somebody else's territory, okay, and there is most likely a barney, they fight, and then one of them most likely will die.

DEB KELLY: I think it's a bit of an attitude of people too, that if an animal is a nuisance to you, kill it; and we need to change that attitude to say address the problem, don't kill the possum.

story notes

brush-tailed and the ring-tailed
There are two types of possums found around Adelaide, where todayís story comes from. There are brush-tailed possums that can be a pest.
And there are ring tail-possums that aren't.

Have a look at the word family of friend. We have the noun friend.

Example: He's a good friend.
From that, we can form the adjective friendly, someone who acts like a friend.

Example: He's only friendly when he wants something.
And then we can form the noun friendliness, the state of acting like a friend.

Example: The friendliness of the people I met was amazing.

fatal attraction
An attraction is the power of attracting or drawing something to you. Itís something that makes you want to go somewhere or do something. The possums want to be near humans. But that could be fatal - it could be causing the death of the possums.

Nocturnal means being awake and active at night.


A deficiency is a lack of something.

electrical fire
a fire cause by electricity

chances are
it's likely

Example: Chances are that the government will win the election.
Click here for more idioms and common expressions.

love and take care of

hobnailed boots
Hobnailed boots are large boots with strong nails in the bottom of them. People wearing hobnailed boots make a lot of noise.

A barney is Australian slang for a fight or dispute.

Maintenance is the act of maintaining, of keeping something in good condition.