A Taronga Zoo vet nurse is providing round-the-clock care to an orphaned Brushtail Possum joey – with a little help from a soft toy kangaroo!
Felicity Evans has taken on the role of surrogate mum to the four-month-old possum, carrying a makeshift pouch and waking in the middle of the night to bottle feed and toilet the joey.
The female joey, who Felicity has nicknamed “Bettina”, was brought to Taronga Wildlife Hospital in September, after being found alone and suffering from dehydration in Mosman. The joey received emergency first aid and has since made a remarkable recovery in Felicity’s care.
“She’s feeding really well and is quite a vocal little thing. She’ll sit in the spare room next to me and call out when she’s ready to feed,” said Felicity.
The joey has also found a fluffy new pal in the form of a soft toy kangaroo, which she clings to tightly while feeding and sleeping.
“At this age she would naturally still be with her mother, so the soft toy gives her something to snuggle for comfort. It’s not as fluffy and woolly as an adult Brushtail Possum, but she clings to it using her claws and teeth as she would do with mum in the wild,” said Felicity.
Bettina is one of two orphaned possum joeys that Felicity is helping to hand-raise in her role as a vet nurse at Taronga Wildlife Hospital.
She also spent three weeks providing overnight care to a female Ringtail Possum that was found curled up alone in a car park in Balmoral. The five-month-old joey has just begun to stay overnight at Taronga Wildlife Hospital, having grown and learned to lap milk from a dish.
“She was only 77 grams when she first arrived and she’s now 180 grams. We’re starting to introduce her to solid foods like carrot and sweet potato, as well as natural browse and native flowers. She particularly loves bottlebrush and the soft tips of eucalyptus,” said Felicity.
Both joeys will remain in the wildlife hospital’s care until they are ready to begin a soft release program, where they’ll be transferred to a specialised wildlife carer and ultimately released back into the wild.
Felicity said the possums’ stories should serve as a reminder to watch out for wildlife this spring, as native animals are often hit by cars or attacked by dogs and cats.
“These two joeys wouldn’t be alive today if someone hadn’t noticed them and brought them to the wildlife hospital,” she said.
Taronga Wildlife Hospital cares for and treats over 1,000 injured or orphaned native animals every year, including wombats, wallabies, possums, echidnas, birds and sea turtles.