POSSUM DEATHS BY CAMPHOR

Examination by dissection and autopsy of dead, completely entire specimens of Mountain Brushtail Possums found at night on roadsides or the middle of the road in various parts of Ballina, Byron, Lismore and Tweed Shires reveals that more than 60% of individuals contained a majority of Camphor laurel berries/fruit filling their stomachs; 10% of individual dead possums also showed organ discolouration (purple) due to Camphor berry pulp; and of the 5% of individual Mountain Brushtail Possums found 'fresh, dead' at night after hot days, all show/ed signs of anaphylactic shock or frothing at the mouth. A total of 55 specimens have been examined.

Possum in anaphylactic shock

Possums, and in more recent years wallabies, are known to consume significant volumes of Camphor laurel bark, dating back to the first observations of bark eating occurrences near Goonengerry National Park, circa 1991 (R. Cray, in Byron Shire, ca. 1991); this is exactly contemporaneous with the 'local knowledge' from Mullumbimby where observers first saw koala consuming Camphor laurel leaves and toxic bark. The bark is known to contain carcinogens and narcotic toxins, all year round, and seasonally (hot weather) in elevated concentrations.

Certain leading Toxicologists, in China as well as in eastern Australia, believe that individual possums (and other mammals) are seasonally exceeding the 'critical intake dose' of camphor. European and Chinese Toxicologists and Naturopaths are in general agreement throughout the available scientific literature (Belanger 1997; Ellenhorn & Barceloux 1998) that 0.5 to 1.0 grams of camphor is enough to disorient an animal/human and induce "restlessness". As little as 2 grams can cause death by "respiratory arrest", and it is clear from dissections that native possums are eating well in excess of 2 grams per day.

In Brisbane, where two species of possum eat significant quantities of Camphor laurel leaf every season over recent years, one Mass Possum Death Event has occurred in direct and close association with more toxic Camphor laurel types (2002).

European Toxicologists Ellenhorn and Barceloux (1998) assert that doses as little as 1 gram of camphor have killed children and (they state further): "Camphor preparations have no scientifically established place in clinical therapeutics".

NOTE: Children in Tanzania who ate Camphor laurel berries earlier this century died the same day, according to South African Weed Scientists, Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk (1968).

June 2005

References:
Belanger, C. A. 1997, The Chinese Herb Selection Guide: A Traditional and Modern Clinical Repertory, Phytotech, Richmond, Calif., USA
Ellenhorn, M. j. & Barceloux, D. G. (Eds.) 1998, Medical Toxicology: Diagnosis and Treatment, 2nd edn, Elsevier, Europe Watt, J. M. & Breyer-Brandwijk, M. G. 1962, The Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa, E & S Livingstone Ltd, London

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