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Proceedings of the First Symposium on Marsupials in New Zealand


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At this symposium convened by the Zoology Department, Victoria University of Wellington, twenty papers on the research and management of marsupials in New Zealand are presented, most of them referring to the common brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula. The Keynote Address on advances in marsupial biology reviews 25 years of research. Seven papers report basic research on the possum, covering such aspects as reproduction, social behaviour, movements, feeding, condition and population dynamics. In the section on applied research and management one paper deals with zoo maintenance of wallabies, three consider diseases of possums, three examine possum population assessment, two describe possum damage to farm crops, pasture and erosion-control plantings and three refer to control of possum populations.

Full reports of workshop discussions provide a range of opinions on anaesthesia and handling marsupials; diseases and risks to humans and domestic stock; housing and management of captive marsupials; techniques of sequential fractional analysis and protein electrophoresis; population assessment; impact on vegetation; exploitation for fur and meat; side-effects of control on non-target species and the environment; offshore island possums; the choice of the vernacular names 'possum' or 'opossum'; communication amongst research and management interests; funding of marsupial research in New Zealand.

A survey of symposium delegates' views on research priorities indicated most, on average, gave priority to research on population assessment techniques, and on evaluating the efficiency of control, though research on control techniques and on diseases, parasites and health also ranked highly.