Thieves target Busselton possum centre over Christmas

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
Shannon VerhagenSouth Western Times

Bunbury police are investigating a heartless break-in at a possum conservation centre near Busselton over Christmas.

While enjoying some time with her family in Dunsborough, FAWNA president Suzi Strapp received a notification on her phone — but it wasn’t a “Merry Christmas” text.

It was an alert from the camera at FAWNA’S Possum Finishing School, which is part of a conservation project to save endangered ringtail possums.

Mrs Strapp went out to investigate and was not prepared for what she saw — a gaping hole in the shed, the school ransacked and tyre tracks in the dirt.

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I was so disappointed I just had to walk away.

Suzi Strapp

It is not the first time the school has been visited by thieves — last year someone stole a bird bath and another was caught on CCTV attempting to bash the camera with a stick — but it is definitely the worst.

“There’s been a couple of little visits, little attempts, but this one was quite nasty,” Mrs Strapp said.

“They used some sort of tin snips and cut a massive whole in the shed so they could access our equipment and stole everything of value... and then used our own wheelbarrow to wheel it to their car.”

The hole cut into the side of FAWNA's Possum Finishing School near Busselton.
Camera IconThe hole cut into the side of FAWNA's Possum Finishing School near Busselton. Credit: Suzi Strapp

First aid equipment, industrial vacuum cleaners, power tools and materials used to house the possums were all stolen, which Mrs Strapp estimated would add up to thousands. And in the midst of summer while bushfires devastate communities around Australia, they even stole a fire extinguisher. A forensic team attended the site this week.

Thankfully, no possums were being housed there at the time due to the hot weather.

Built last summer for a three-to-five-year research project between the not-for-profit, the South West Catchment Council, University of Western Australia and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Mrs Strapp said this would be a setback.

It’s just really disappointing as we spent all year raising money to make (the school) happen.

Suzi Strapp

“And to steal things like fire, first aid and snake bite equipment is really devastating because they’re not thinking about people’s welfare at all and the welfare of volunteers, they’re just thinking of themselves.”

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