- An orphaned baby brushtail possum is being nursed back to health at Australian wildlife hospital
- Tiny possum was found alone on the side of a road
- Hospital wants Australians to watch out for native wildlife that are often hit by cars or attacked by domesticated pets
The photos of the small marsupial cuddling a stuffed toy kangaroo has softened the hearts of Internet users and earned praise for the efforts from the hospital.
Nurse Felicity Evans nicknamed the female possum Bettina. The 4-month-old possum Bettina was brought to Taronga Wildlife Hospital in September. Bettina received emergency first-aid and since then has been cared for by Evans who has taken careful and cuddly measures to nurse it back to good health.
"She's feeding really well and is quite a vocal little thing. She'll sit in the spare room next to me and call out when she's ready to feed," said Evans.
Bettina was less than 3 ounces when she first arrived, but has since doubled in size. She eats carrots, sweet potato and natural flowers and Evans said, "she particularly loves bottlebrush and the soft tips of eucalyptus."
Bettina was found alone and it is unclear what happened to her mother, so Evans has taken on the role as a surrogate mom. She carries her in a makeshift pouch and like most moms wakes up in the middle of the night to bottle feed and help Bettina go to the bathroom.
To ease the separation from her natural environment Bettina has a miniature toy kangaroo. "At this age she would naturally still be with her mother, so the soft toy gives her something to snuggle for comfort. It's not as fluffy and woolly as an adult Brushtail Possum, but she clings to it using her claws and teeth as she would do with mum in the wild," said Evans.
Evans said this possum story should serve as a reminder to watch out for wildlife, as native animals are often hit by cars or attacked by dogs and cats. Taronga Wildlife Hospital cares for and treats over 1,000 injured or orphaned native animals every year, including wombats, wallabies, possums, echidnas, birds and sea turtles.
Bettina will stay at the hospital until she is ready to be released back into the wild.