A rare Golden possum nicknamed Pikachu was rescued when she was around 5 months old. One look at the adorable creature, and we can see how she earned the name ‘Pikachu’. Indeed, the striking similarities between the cute possum and the most iconic Pokémon character, Pikachu, cannot be missed.
The golden possum was brought in to the Boronia Veterinary Clinic and Animal Hospital (BVCAH) in Melbourne after she was found on the ground by a concerned member of the public. It was believed that she had fallen off her mother’s back, and was around 5 months old. At this age, small possums should have still been staying with their moms and being cared for, as explained by Dr. Stephen Reinisch from Boronia Veterinary Clinic and Hospital.
At the beginning, the little possum was a bit shy and nervous, as expected, due to the unfamiliar situation she was going through, but overall, she was in good spirits and health. After she was checked over by vets, Pikachu had spent the night at the clinic and was then handed over to a wildlife carer the next day.
Pikachu belongs to the Golden brushtail possum species, an unusual form of the Common brushtail possum. The Common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) is the second-largest of the possums and one of the most widespread species native to Australia.
It can be found throughout the eastern and northern parts of the continent and some western parts, in Tasmania, several other offshore islands, and was introduced to New Zealand in the 1850s. Its scientific name Trichosurus vulpecula has its Greek meaning as “furry tailed” and in Latin as “little fox”.
Possums are omnivores, though they mainly feed on the leaves of trees and shrubs and enjoy garden plants. However, they have been known to eat small mammals such as rats. The four color variations of the Common brushtail possum are silver-gray, brown, black and golden, with the most popular ones being brown or grayish while the rarest type is the golden one.
The fluffy golden coat is due to a genetic mutation that causes a low level of melanin pigment that gives them their normal color; it is the same pigment responsible for dark eyes, hair, and skin in humans.
Although there are other possums with this same color mutation around, they are rare in the wild. The bright yellow color that gives them their distinct appearance and make them look special to us is what also makes them conspicuous to predators. Indeed, they are not able to camouflage as well as their brown or grayish counterparts and become an easy target for predators such as owls, especially since possums are nocturnal as well.
Below are photos of other golden possums that have been found in the wild:
Caroline Dazey from the non-profit Wildlife Victoria stated that more golden possums are found in small pockets in the state of Victoria, especially on Melbourne’s fringes. But these locations are kept a secret by volunteers who go to help them out, to ensure their safety.
At that time, it was being considered whether it would be possible to eventually set Pikachu free into the wild. If the possum became a little more out there and a bit feisty, then she could be released from captivity, as explained by Dr Reinisch. But if she remained anxious, she would stay in long-term care in a wildlife sanctuary.
It was for this reason as well that the golden possum was only given a nickname, as giving her a proper name might have gotten her carer too attached, which wouldn’t be the ideal situation since the end goal was to release her in the wild.
A fun fact within the Pokémon universe — You may be wondering how the iconic character Pikachu got its particular appearance, and this was revealed by the Pokémon creators. Originally, the inspiration for the character was a ‘vertically long daifuku rice confection with ears’, as explained by Nintendo illustrator Atsuko Nishida. But then, the creators were required to make the character appear cuter, and so they designed it to resemble more like a squirrel that they had always wished to own.
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