Impact of bovine tuberculosis on a population of brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula Kerr) in the Orongorongo Valley, New Zealand

Brushtail possums are the main wildlife vectors of bovine tuberculosis (Tb) in New Zealand. Possum–Tb models form the basis of possum control aimed at eradicating the disease, and yet competing models show different behaviour, and are highly sensitive to parameters about which there is considerable uncertainty. One area of great uncertainty is the impact of the disease on possum populations. We investigated the impact of Tb on a local population of brushtail possums in the Orongorongo Valley, Wellington. Bovine Tb was first detected in 1997 at one site within an intensively studied population, but has not been detected in another intensively studied population 3 km away since the early 1980s. Using a Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) analysis, detection of Tb coincided with a 42% (95% CI = 23–56%) reduction in the odds of apparent yearly survival of a possum >17 months of age, i.e. a decrease in yearly survival from 0.85 to 0.77 in ‘good’ years, and a decrease from 0.71 to 0.60 in ‘bad’ years. This suggests that Tb had a significant impact on overall survival. However, there was no impact on local population density in September each year due to compensatory recruitment.

Author Arthur, A., Ramsey, D. and Efford, M.
Year 2004
Secondary title Wildlife Research
Volume 31
Number 4
Pages 389-385
Region NZ