When we help, we are giving other beings a chance at a better life. A perfect example is a story of a Golden possum nicknamed Pikachu. She was rescued when she was only 5 months old. This possum gets her name from the striking similarities between her and the most iconic Pokémon character, Pikachu. It is shocking how similar a real-world animal is to a fictional creature.
The golden possum was brought to the Boronia Veterinary Clinic and Animal Hospital (BVCAH) in Melbourne after a concerned member of the public found her on the ground. It is believed that she had fallen off her mother’s back and was around five months old. At this age, small possums should still be staying with their mothers and being cared for, as Dr. Stephen Reinisch from Boronia Veterinary Clinic and Hospital explains.
At the start, the young possum was a little shy and nervous, as expected. However, she was in good spirits and health overall. After she was checked over by vets, Pikachu spent the night at the clinic and was then handed over to wildlife care the next day.
Pikachu is a member of the Golden brushtail possum species, a rare variant of the Common brushtail possum. The Common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) is the second-largest type of possum and one of the most ubiquitous species native to Australia.
It can be found in various eastern and northern parts of the continent, as well as some western parts, in Tasmania, and other offshore islands, and was transported to New Zealand in the 1850s. Its scientific name Trichosurus vulpecula originates from the Greek word for “furry-tailed”. It mean “little fox” in Latin.
Possums are omnivores, principally feeding on the leaves of trees and shrubs, but also enjoying garden plants. They have, however, been known to eat small mammals such as rats. There are four color variations of the Common brushtail possum: silver-gray, brown, black and golden, with the brown or grayish being the most popular, and the gold being the rarest.
The soft, golden coat is the result of a genetic mutation that causes a low level of melanin pigment. This is the same pigment responsible for dark eyes, hair, and skin in humans.
Although other possums with this same color mutation do exist, they are quite rare in the wild. The bright yellow color that gives them their distinct appearance also makes them conspicuous to predators. Indeed, they are not able to conceal themselves as well as their brown or grayish counterparts and become an easy target for predators such as owls, especially since possums are nocturnal.
Caroline Dazey from the non-profit Wildlife Victoria stated that a higher number of golden possums are found in small pockets throughout the state of Victoria, especially on Melbourne’s fringes. But these locations are kept confidential by volunteers who go to help them, to ensure their safety.
The reason for this was that they were considering whether it would be possible to eventually release Pikachu into the wild. If the possum became more acclimated and a bit feistier, she could be freed from captivity, as explained by Dr. Reinisch. However, if she remained anxious, she would stay in long-term care at a wildlife sanctuary. Therefore, 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 goal was to release her into the wild.
The iconic character Pikachu got its particular appearance from a ‘vertically long daifuku rice confection with ears’, as explained by Nintendo illustrator Atsuko Nishida. However, 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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