Valued guest or vilified pest? How attitudes towards urban brushtail possums Trichosurus vulpecula fit into general perceptions of animals
Sarah Wilks, Tracey Russell, Jutta Eymann, 2008. "Valued guest or vilified pest? How attitudes towards urban brushtail possums Trichosurus vulpecula fit into general perceptions of animals", Too close for comfort: Contentious issues in human-wildlife encounters, Daniel Lunney, Adam Munn, Will Meikle
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The brushtail possum is common in Sydney's bushland suburbs, where it is often valued and made welcome. However, some suburban residents do not either value or welcome brushtail possums on their properties. This study probed the attitudes of both groups of people towards the animals and the environment more generally. It was found that amongst brushtail possum lovers, the animals were seen as simultaneously cute and familiar, and as emblematic of endangered Australian wildlife and natural environments in general. People who did not like or value brushtail possums expressed attitudes in accordance with a dominionistic value system.
Unlicensed trapping of brushtail possums was reported and the existence of a pool of privately owned traps was confirmed. Brushtail possums were reported to have been transported to nearby parks or bushland areas. Usually no provisions for food and water were made while the animal was in the trap. It was known by unlicensed trappers that relocated animals are not thought to fare well but this did not deter them.
Linkages were demonstrated between peoples' underlying values and their attitude and behaviour towards brushtail possums. It is suggested that if change is to be effected then education also needs to target underlying values and attitudes towards animals and the environment rather than just filling fact voids.
Several instances of severe ill-treatment of brushtail possums were disclosed during the study which may indicate further attention to legislative provisions and management options is required.