Romance on the cards for Pickles

A POSSUM which was locked in a container full of onions and shipped across the world to Ipswich looks to have a bright - and romantic - future ahead of it.

A HAPLESS possum which was locked in a container full of onions and shipped across the world to Ipswich looks to have a bright - and romantic - future ahead of it.

Pickles the New Zealand bush-tailed possum landed at Ipswich port in April after sneaking into the container before embarking on a traumatic six-week journey from New Zealand.

He miraculously survived his time in confinement with only onions to eat and condensation inside the container to drink.

Trading standards officers from Suffolk County Council, who were called in by port workers to capture Pickles, were so impressed by his fighting spirit that they raised the £1,200 needed to keep him in quarantine.

He has spent the past three months in the Yorkshire International Quarantine Centre at Allerthorpe, near York, and will be released to a new home in late October.

Today it emerged that Pickles, who got his name from his diet of onions while in the container, is likely to be released to an animal park which has a breeding programme for bush-tailed possums.

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Council staff have been keeping a close eye on his progress and Adam Barnes, trading standards spokesman for the council, said: “Pickles is fit, well and happy. He now responds to his name and he is eating well.

“He is still in quarantine but it's likely he will be released to a wild animal park in Cumbria which has one of the only breeding programmes for bush-tailed possums in Europe.”

Pickles' arrival at Ipswich port sparked headlines both in the UK and New Zealand, where possums are a pest. The £1,200 raised by the trading standards officers and animal lovers throughout the UK saved him from being put down.

Paul Stevenson, who runs the quarantine centre with his wife Lynne, said Pickles had adapted quickly to his temporary home and had developed a strong bond with his daughter Sara, 21.

He said: “He's great. He comes out when my daughter calls him and he goes and sits on her knee and she hand feeds him.

“When he first arrived we couldn't get him out of his box because he was a bit tentative. Then Sara started hand feeding him in the box and now she calls him and he comes down to her. It's absolutely amazing.

“The rest of the staff are a bit wary of him because of his claws and teeth. Sara just has this amazing affinity with animals.

“She doesn't want him to go, she wants to keep him now.”

Possums are marsupials, which means they carry their young in a pouch.

They have a thick, bushy tail and sharp claws which are good for climbing tress.

They are nocturnal and generally eat the juicy new leafy growth of trees and insects, berries, bird's eggs and sometimes the chicks

In New Zealand Possums are a pest because they have no natural enemies.

They were introduced there in 1837 from Australia, where possums are native animals and are protected.

Source: Kiwi Conservation Club

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