Tiny Brazilian opossum could be farmers’ friend (Mongabay and Scientific American)

Posted on by Brendan Borrell

André Mendonça pops open the spring-loaded door on the shoebox-sized trap and peeks inside. Two bulging, black eyes glare back at him. He pulls the trap off the tree limb and shakes the stunned, sopping wet creature into a clear plastic bag. “One more!” he says excitedly. 

The animal, a gracile mouse opossum (Gracilinanus agilis), has a long, pointy nose, adorable pink ears, and slender hairless legs. Mendonça, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Brasília, weighs and measures the animal, clips its ears and adds two metal tags. Then, lets it go and watches it amble into a sapling. This little drama takes place at the Botanical Garden of Brasília, a few miles from the center of the Brazilian capital. 

Preserving Brazil’s Cerrado savanna landscape, Mendonça tells me, isn’t just good for biodiversity, it’s also good for neighboring farms and farmers. A reason why: these researchers just recently learned that this little opossum species likes to feast on a local soybean pest. “If farmers maintain a natural [wooded] area next to their soy plantation,” where these animals can live, “they may not have to use as much pesticide,” he said. 

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This is the second story from my trip to Brazil, which was supported by the Mongabay Special Reporting Inititative