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Pookila mouse breeding program begins after drought, land clearing and predators take a toll

Fewer than 3,000 Pookila mice are thought to be left in the wild in Victoria but a new captive breeding program hopes to turn the endangered rodents’ fortunes around.

Zoos Victoria’s native rodent biologist Phoebe Burns said the mouse had become extinct at seven of the 12 sites the species was known to inhabit in Victoria.

“The Pookila has undergone massive declines here in Victoria…our research shows they’re only persisting at five of those sites [in Gippsland],” Dr Burns said.

“The 2019 drought in Gippsland really knocked them around so we think there’s fewer than 3,000 animals left in the wild at the moment, which is pretty bad.

“They used to be found all the way out across to Anglesea and south-east Melbourne but the only remaining sites now are at [Wilsons Promontory] and around Loch Sport.”

Dr Burns said the Pookila mouse played an important environmental role by spreading seeds and fungal spores and keeping soil healthy.

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