The Australian Reptile Park has come to the rescue and aid of perhaps the wildlife park’s cutest resident. The yellow-footed rock-wallaby joey weighs just under a kilo and sadly, she was rejected by her mother.
Operations Manager, Billy Collett took on the task of surrogate “mum” and came to the rescue. This is not your average task and undertaking the role of carer for a newborn marsupial has lots of work involved, this is combined with Billy also recently becoming a first-time dad with a 9-month-old baby, who is the same age as the little wallaby joey. Billy feeds the joey specially formulated milk every 5 hours, which includes a 2am feed each night. He also keeps the joey feeling safe in a knitted pouch mimicking a pouch – just like her mother had.
The joey is yet to be named and staff at the Australian Reptile Park are calling out to the public to help name the bouncing bundle of joy. The adorable joey’s mother is an older individual and the older a wallaby is, the more like she is to reject the joey. Although tiny, the joey has relished in her second chance at life and is blossoming into a happy and healthy joey.
Billy says of being a surrogate mother, “This joey already has so much personality, I love her to bits. It’s the most rewarding thing in the world to nurse a joey and watch them become independent, happy and healthy. It has been a bit of a struggle juggling both a marsupial joey and my own baby and I have to ensure I get each of their feeding schedules right and don’t mix up the bottles!
He continued, “But all the sleepless nights are worth it and I can’t wait to see her grow into a healthy and strong adult yellow-footed rock-wallaby for our guests to see!”
Director of the Australian Reptile Park Liz Gabriel adds, “It comes down to both luck and passion that our staff were able to see something was off with Mum and rescue this little joey. We’re very lucky to have some of the best zookeepers in the business here! Australia sadly has the worst mammal extinction rate on the planet, so the joeys are especially important in preserving this incredible species!”
The orphaned joey is a part of the Australian Reptile Park’s vital conservation breeding project to help save the threatened species. Yellow-footed rock-wallabies were once found throughout New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia. However, they have now disappeared from New South Wales and Queensland with their numbers in the wild estimated at being as little as 5,000. Their decline is attributed to intense hunting in the 1800s and early 1900s for their pelts and in recent times, the introduction of feral pests such at the fox and cat.