Tucked under blankets, all snuggled up in her house in the education building, lives Wildlife Safari’s ambassador Opossum, Violet. Violet was orphaned at 4 weeks old and would not have survived without her keepers hand raising her. Since then she has grown from a little one that could fit in the palm of your hand into a full grown adventurer. She loves meeting people and teaching them about her species, the only marsupial not native to Australia. She loves walking with her keepers (she is harness trained), and napping in her nest box (which she fills full of blankets so its just right).
The Virginia Opossum is native to North America and is the Northern hemisphere’s only marsupial (a mammal with a pouch to carry their young). Although they are commonly called ‘possums’ in the US, they are a different species entirely from true possums – species native to Australia.
Opossums are omnivores, eating fruits and vegetables, meat and insects. Violet particularly loves meal worms and cockroaches! They are nocturnal, foraging and hunting for food at night, and sleeping through the day. They have a prehensile tail which they use for stability amongst tree branches, although they can’t hang from them. Since they move around in the dark of night, they rely a lot on their sense of smell. “Violet primarily explores her world through smell and taste, so we get licked quite a lot,” says Julianne Rose, Lead Educator and one of those involved with raising Violet. Rose says the hand raising process is “exhausting but extremely rewarding” with regularly feedings throughout the night when she was small. Violet is now 8 months old and has her keepers charmed. “The education department wouldn’t be complete without her!” says Rose.