Lost and Found

by Kate C
Publish date
5 April 2011
Comments (3)

The story of Leadbeater's Possum is so interwoven with the history of Museum Victoria that there was no better place to celebrate it than at Melbourne Museum last Sunday.

This tiny, highlands marsupial was first described by the museum's director, Sir Frederick McCoy in 1867, who named it Gymnobelideus leadbeateri after our first taxidermist, John Leadbeater.

By the 1900s, it was thought extinct. No one saw it for decades. Charles Brazenor, later to become director of the museum, published a plea in 1946 for naturalists to find the creature to no avail. In 1961, a young museum employee changed the fate of Leadbeater's Possum. The amazing story of its rediscovery is recorded in this short film by Curator of History of Science, Rebecca Carland:

On Sunday 3 April, exactly 50 years after his first glimpse of a wild Leadbeater's Possum, Eric was honoured at a ceremony jointly organised by Parks Victoria, Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possum and Museum Victoria. On behalf of the museum and the people of Victoria, Robin Hirst presented Eric with a print of Leadbeater's Possum from the Prodromus of Zoology.

Attendees at Leadbeater's event L-R: Robin Hirst, Director of Collections, Research and Exhibitions; Eric Wilkinson; CEO Patrick Greene and curator Rebecca Carland.
Image: Liza Dale-Hallet
Source: Museum Victoria

Eric handed a young sapling of Mountain Ash as a symbolic baton of care to a representative of the of the group HELP (Help the Endangered Leadbeater's Possum). Four Year 7 students started HELP in 2009 to raise awareness of the plight of the species and to gather funds to assist in its future survival. Eric spoke about the inspiring work they've done so far, and the important role of the next generation in protecting our state's faunal emblem.

Students Jo Antrobus from Parks Victoria with students from St. Margarets School, Berwick, special guest speaker and environment ambassador Sheree Marris and Lake Mountain mascot Lenny Leadbeater. Lake Mountain is home to most of the remaining Leadbeater's Possum habitat.
Image: Liza Dale-Hallett
Source: Museum Victoria


The Age article: Hello, possums! Breed saved from extinction 50 years on

Leadbeater's Possum on Collections Online

Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum

Comments (3)

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Caz McLennan 6 April, 2011 14:38
Hi Bec, I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your video. What a charming man Eric is. The professionalism displayed in your end product, as well as the intriguing story, really highlight how important it is for Museum Victoria to document the fascinating stories behind these chance discoveries and what we research and do in general. Well done. Cheers from Caz
Lucy 6 April, 2011 16:26
Fantastic video!! Thanks!
Luke Simpkin 13 April, 2011 16:03
What a terrific story of discovery and a remarkable man. Great also to see another generation taking on the challenge of seeing Leadbeater's Possum survive the next 50 years.
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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.