Rangers give striped possum ‘Beetlejuice’ a leg-up thanks to custom-made tree

Issued: 17 Feb 2023

Photos of a new hollow which has been designed to meet Beetlejuice's (movement-impaired striped possum) needs.Open larger image

Beetlejuice's new hollow has been designed to meet his needs.

Photo of a ranger with a new hollow which has been designed to meet Beetlejuice's (movement-impaired striped possum) needs at Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre which is one of the only places to see striped possums outside of their natural habitat.Open larger image

Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre is one of the only places to see striped possums outside of their natural habitat.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) rangers have created a custom-designed habitat to give movement-impaired striped possum ‘Beetlejuice’, a wildlife ambassador at the Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre, a more comfortable life.

Over the past month, rangers at the centre have been crafting the perfect imitation tree hollow to cater for Beetlejuice’s mobility limitations, including a wider branch for extra support and additional indentations in the wood for easier grip when climbing up and down.

Beetlejuice came into care at Walkabout Creek, located at the Gap – 12km from the Brisbane CBD, in September 2021 after he was found severely injured near a road in Cairns and was transported to a local vet.

It is believed Beetlejuice was dropped by a bird of prey, and as a result has been left with permanent spinal and shoulder damage.

As Beetlejuice could no longer survive in the wild, he was secured by Walkabout Creek where he now lives as a wildlife ambassador, playing an important role in conservation and biodiversity education.

Rangers at the centre supported Beetlejuice’s recovery, which took several months, and he is now participating in discovery shows to educate visitors on the importance of his species and the unique environment in which he lives.

Ranger in Charge Talia Maxwell said following construction, this is the first week that Beetlejuice has been able to showcase his new designer tree during the discovery shows.

“Our rangers have been hard at work modifying the tree and creating the hollow and branch which required multiple layers of mock rocking and tweaking,” Ms Maxwell said.

“We had the base version of a tree to begin with and the team has been slowly modifying this to include a safe hollow and extended wide branch to suit Beetlejuice’s needs.

“We also modified the tree’s colour to represent that of a tree having experienced bushfires, and a ventilated nest box with a purpose-built slide door was also created to allow for an easy entry and release to assist Beetlejuice during the discovery shows.”

Ms Maxwell said Walkabout Creek had made a variety of enclosures, enrichment items and other projects to ensure the highest standard of care possible for the wildlife at the centre.

“Like Beetlejuice, many of our wildlife come to the centre as they are no longer able to survive in the wild,” she said.

“We work to create structures like Beetlejuice’s hollow and branch to enable the wildlife to display natural behaviours without being handled by visitors.”

The striped possum can only be found in the Wet Tropics region of North Queensland, and in lowland New Guinea.

Beetlejuice is one of only three striped possums living in a wildlife centre, making Walkabout Creek one of the only places in the world to see this protected species outside of their natural habitat.

Wildlife ambassadors such as Beetlejuice provide a very rare opportunity for visitors to see Queensland’s protected wildlife up close, building awareness and advocacy for ongoing conservation efforts across the state.

The Queensland Government has provided approximately an additional $40 million to save our threatened species which supports the delivery of the Queensland Threatened Species Program and South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy.

Find out more about the Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre.