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Photo by Paul Fahy
Matt with Swamp Wallaby joey, Alkira

A Taronga Zoo education coordinator has taken on the role of surrogate dad to an orphaned Swamp Wallaby joey, whose mother was struck by a car near Sydney.

Matt Dea has been hand-raising the female joey for the past two weeks, carrying a makeshift pouch and waking up at 2am for one of five daily bottle feeds.

“Caring for such a young joey is very involved and she hasn’t left my side. She comes home with me, she comes to the shops and she sleeps beside my desk at work each day,” said Matt, who is the coordinator for Taronga’s Roar and Snore.

The joey was brought to Taronga Wildlife Hospital on 15 September after its mother was struck and killed by a car at Oxford Falls. Fortunately, a Taronga Zoo keeper spotted the wallaby beside the road on her way to work and discovered the joey still alive inside the pouch.

“She was a bit stunned, but otherwise healthy with no injuries from the car accident. We were really lucky,” said Matt.

About 6 months old, the joey has been named ‘Alkira’, which means ‘sunshine’. For now her diet is restricted to a special milk mixture and the occasional nibble of grass, but she’ll gradually be introduced to solid foods such as carrot and sweet potato.

She’ll also start to step out of her replacement pouch – Matt’s canvas backpack – in 4-6 weeks.

“She’ll be a little wobbly on her feet at first, but she’ll soon be hopping in and out as she becomes more adventurous,” said Matt.

When she is old enough, Alkira will move to Taronga’s Education Centre, acting as an ambassador for her species in the wild and helping to educate visitors about the importance of habitat conservation and protection of native animals.

Matt said Alkira’s story should serve as a reminder for motorists to watch out for wildlife on the roads these school holidays.

Taronga Wildlife Hospital cares for and treats over 1,000 injured or orphaned native animals every year, including wallabies, possums, echidnas, birds, sea turtles and Little Penguins.

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