Raising an orphan wallaby joey

I have done many things over my life. I have always loved animals. I have always thought about working as a native animal rescuer. I have a neighbour who has always cared for orphaned animals and will often in Spring and Autumn have a joey or several (possum or wallaby ) in her care generally on her person. One of my fondest memories is talking with her at a cafe where we were sitting outdoors, and out of her dreadlocks (which were up in a big pony tail) appeared a beautiful joey of a ring tail possum.

When you visit her home, she has wallaby joeys who may still be in a pouch and some who are hopping about during the day. Some who are older and spend their day outside and just come back in to sleep in their pouch. Even some who have left (she lives on acreage in the bush) will come and visit. Bringing with them a new partner, and to show off their joeys.

I found a joey in a dead wallaby’s pouch coming home a few years ago.

Sadly Mama had been hit by a vehicle. I checked the pouch and found the tiny joey. He was not quite a pinky. (a pinky is a marsupial baby with no hair)… Picture of a Pinky

The wee fellow I found was just getting hair a very soft downy hair. He was pretty much like this photo below.

He was off his Mama’s teat which was a big worry. Normally it is incredibly difficult to take a wallaby joey off its Mama’s teat to save them. You can not just pull them off, and it is not unheard of for the nipple to be cut off so the baby can have something to suck and trauma is less for a short while. Joeys hold on tight to the teat. The reason is Joeys can survive in their Mama’s pouch for up to 48hours if they have not been injured. So it was impossible to tell how long he had been off the teat. I was fortunate that our local feed store in Huonville carries supplies for wildlife baby feeding.

Wallaby joey teat.

The above are pictures of wildlife teats that you attach to small bottles for orphaned babies. The photo on the bottom is the sort for a wallaby joey. You can see how long the teat is which explains why it can be so difficult to remove a joey of its Mama’s teat after an accident.

Tasmania did not really have a rescue organisation or training for rescuing native babies when I first moved here and it was the kindness of people such as my friend to take on the care of these orphans.

I knew my friend was away, when I found this wee joey. He was an Autumn baby. Most young are born in the spring. I drove to our local animal provision shop who had native animal milk formula. I purchased special wallaby teats and little bottles, along with the milk formula. I also bought some baby bottle sterilising tablets.

I wrapped up the tiny baby and popped him inside my bra. Warm safe and snug. Body temperature is so important. Especially for one such as this wee guy who had no real hair as yet.

Arriving home I popped the kettle on and sterilised the new teats and bottles.
I found some old holey flannelette sheets and cut them up and then found a beanie. These were to become the wraps and face wipes along with toilet wipes for this little baby.

I made the milk powder up for the joey wrapped him up in the flannelette wrap. I poured the required amount into the bottle and attached the teat. It is not a given any baby animal will just drink from the teat. It is nothing like their Mama’s teat, taste wise or shape wise they are much more like them though then when I raised a joey in NSW quite a few years ago now. Imagine having to get used to a silicon or rubber taste that is not warm or smelling like their Mama’s.

The fact is I did not know if this wee joey was injured, he did not look as if he had any broken bones, you could see basically through his skin and I could see no bruising and he had no blood anywhere. He would be in shock of course. Knocked off the teat, and in a slowly cooling pouch. I dripped some of the formula onto his mouth in the hope the poor wee joey would taste the milk and look for the teat. It is in no way a certainty that any orphan will take to the teat. Texture, taste, warmth, of the teat, and the formula are all new for the baby. As are the smells of me, and the cloth he was now wrapped up in. (fortunately I do not wash clothes and linens in scented clothes washing powder).

I gently tried to move the teat to his mouth and push it slightly in the hope he would take it in. He did not and for the next 10+minutes I gently attempted to encourage him. He was not doing it, so in the end I gently opened his jaw and placed it in his mouth. He took the teat in. I helped it in gently and then I hoped he would suckle. In the process of getting the teat into his mouth some of the formula had gone onto the teat and I feel the joey tasted this and was hungry enough to suckle. Yeah.

He drank nearly all the fluid that is advised for the age I believed this little guy was. He was falling asleep. It must have been a very frightening day the smell of the car, my dogs, me, and all that he had gone through.
I could see the milk in his stomach under his skin. I had been so very careful not to let any go down into his airway. This can happen very easily in the early days of hand rearing an orphaned animal. I then wet with warm water one of the smaller flannels and very gently patted his genital this is to simulate his Mama licking him to make him go to the toilet in her pouch. She then licks the area clean. I gently patted and wiped up the tiny drops of urine and feces. There was not any sign of blood in either. A good sign of no internal injuries.

He needed rest. I needed to tend to my dogs who were so curious as to what was going on.

I made sure I fed him away from my dogs, and in a room they never came into. Sounds bizarre but the toilet was the best place. I could sit, it was away from the dogs, and had no dog smell. It was always clean and he had a lovely safe dark place I could hang the pillow case pouch with him snug in his beanie bed. I needed to have a power point for the kettle, as I would be up every two hours overnight to feed him.

The success rate with joeys as young as he was is not high. Not knowing how long he had been off the teat, was also a problem, the fact he drank eventually from the bottle was a huge relief. I refrained from giving him a name. I knew from my friend via messenger that he was likely to die.
Even when you believe they are past the worst a joey can just die. They are nervous and need to be left in the pouch as much as possible. They should only be handled for feeding, toileting when they are so young or even when they are older to settle down and feel safe.

For the first week I was so petrified that he would be dead every time I went in to feed him.

He was growing, I weighed him every day. (very important to keep a check on that he is growing and eating) along with documenting how much he drank each feed. 12 feeds a day/ 24hours seven days a week. I documented it all so I could see immediately if he was not drinking as much or loosing weight. Hygiene was the most important part for this baby. I did now at the age he was he had, had the colostrum from his Mamma in the early days. That is a big bonus in caring for young wallabies.

How my life changed and how my dogs lives changed with this new routine in our life.

I would take him with me only if I was going to be out of the house for more than two hours or a risk I might be, he would be in my top. I rarely let anyone know he was there, he was too young and it was way to risky for him. I would ask for boiling hot water in a mug if I was at a cafe as I needed to feed him, sit quietly and make up his bottle and just feed him. Everyone understood and was kind when I explained he was too little to be out of his beanie and wrap.

After a few days when I could see he was growing and his hair was very slowly appearing it was fascinating observing how his hair came in.
I called him Wee Jasper. He wormed his way easily into my heart. As tired as I would feel at two am, four am, six am as I got up to get his bottle ready and feed him, just listening to his snuffles and suckling warmed my heart so much.
Even with the damp warm cloth making him wee and poop keeping his bottom and pouch very clean.
Cleaning his bottles and teats after every feed;. every two hours. The reality of being a wild life rescuer. These babies take much longer than kittens or puppies to grow and reach a maturity where they no longer need bottle feeding. It is a huge commitment for all those who do it all the time.

I did not take many photos of Wee Jasper. As for me it was important that he was to remain as wild as possible. It was important that he was disturbed as little as possible. Feeding him every two

In this photo he was all wrapped up and settled having just had a feed. He is wrapped in flannelette sheeting, (you can see loose threads in these photos, I must have been washing all the other ones as it was too easy for him to get the threads caught around his nails or even his paw or face and do some damage. He is then in a pure wool beanie. I did not use any synthetic materials (though I know some people do and are OK with it) As I was concerned about the synthetic fibre getting into his mouth.

This is Wee Jasper quite a bit older here he is still in his beanie but this is an old cotton pillow case I had which I used as his pouch. It hung from a hook in the toilet.

He was getting old enough here to have some time out of the pouch and be in the sunshine. (He was a paddymelon joey they are a small wallaby). You can see how small he still is next to my fairly small mug. On the timber deck. He was learning to manage his footing here. As he had been in a pouch all his life unitl this day. It was a special day for us both.

If you look at this photo and compare it to the previous one you can see how much more hair Wee Jasper has on his face. I love this photo it shows he is happy and healthy with bright eyes. It helps the joey to settle better if he has a dummy (pacifier) it is the end of a teat. The joeys are attached to their Mama’s teat until they pop their heads out of the pouch basically. Then they intermittently suckle.

I was so happy that Wee Jasper survived. I was so awed at how much work is involved. I began to worry about how I would socialise him to other wallabies. Life was getting easier as he grew the feeds were growing further apart.

My friend who I mentioned previously rang me to see how he was going and asked me how I felt about him moving to her home. As she had a joey she had receive a few weeks previously who was thriving now similar age to Wee Jasper and same breed. She thought it would be wonderful for them to be playmates and live together. I agreed. So the next day I took my little macropod to her home. Where her little guy and mine would meet. I hung his pouch on the spot my friend indicated. Next to her boy. He was out and immediately went to smell the new thing in his environment. I could see Wee Jasper wiggling from his lying position to move to a more upright position, and sure enough my friends joey made some chattering sounds and Wee Jaspers head came out of the pouch. He had learnt to get out of the pouch but still needed a hand to return(a pillow case is not the same shape in any way as a pouch).

The slightly bigger joey sniffed Wee Jasper, and my boy made his way out of the pouch. They sniffed each other and it then was like watching most youngsters who meet up with a new person sorting out who and what you are. I feel Wee Jasper suddenly realised he was not human. They hopped and played, chased each other and it was so good to see. My friend also had several other wallabies in varying ages in her home and who she had released on her land who came visiting. It was going to be a great home for Wee Jaspers next stage in his life. It has been several years, and I did visit my friends home several times over the course of time, and Wee Jasper seemed to remember me, he would come over for a cuddle scratch, he and his buddy. My friend told me that they would go off all night and come and sleep in their pouch during the day, and she then made them (as they got old enough stay outside all the time. SO they were aware they were wild creatures. With some quirks.

blessings to You, Tazzie

All information and photography is Copywritten remains the property of Echidna Home unless otherwise documented. . If you wish to share any please contact me.

6 thoughts on “Raising an orphan wallaby joey

Add yours

  1. What a blessing for your kindness

    You got lost totally in doing good.

    Think back how your PTSD took a back seat for while.

    Wonderful story

    When we care and give we are alive and in the moment

    You also have a great neighbor

    Liked by 2 people

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