Submission note: "A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] Department of Environmental Management & Ecology, Agricultural Sciences and Zoology, Faculty of Science Technology and Engineering, La Trobe University, Bundoora".
Knowledge of the behaviour of endangered species is fundamental to the success of captive breeding and reintroduction programs. Despite this, basic biological knowledge and behavioural information is lacking for many endangered species at the inception of captive conservation programs. Burramys parvus is a critically endangered marsupial restricted to the alpine and subalpine regions of Victoria and New South Wales. This thesis describes the social behaviour and non-social behaviours, postures and activity patterns of B. parvus in captivity. Three focal groups of possums were investigated in this thesis; short[-]term captive (captive [less than] 3 days), extended term captive (captive [greater than] 6 months), and captive-bred. Social behaviour was described from the encounters of male/female pairs, female/female pairs, and a small group of females recorded and analysed over a three[-]day period. Behaviour exhibited by B. parvus was typical of other small marsupials, with terrestrial travel, climbing and feeding the most frequent behaviours. Analyses of continuous recordings of the time spent active and activities of three treatment groups of B. parvus time confirmed that B. parvus was predominantly nocturnal. In all groups, the length of nocturnal activity was greater than diurnal activity. However, the captive-bred group exhibited significantly more diurnal activity compared with the wild-bred con-specifics with activity recorded every hour of the diurnal period. The time spent on six focal activities (terrestrial travel, climbing, feeding, drinking, grooming and sitting) was also compared between the treatment groups. Terrestrial travel was the most prevalent in all three groups, with climbing and feeding also frequently observed. At the conclusion of this study, the current findings are compared those from previous field[-] and laboratory[-]based studies of B. parvus and other small marsupials. This study increases our knowledge of the behaviours and activity patterns of B. parvus and will assist with the maintenance of natural behaviours in captive breeding programs.
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