Wombat Orphan Finds New Mother At Taronga Zoo
Wednesday 1st December 2010
Wombat Orphan Finds New Mother At Taronga Zoo

An orphaned baby wombat is receiving round the clock care at Taronga after its mother was killed on a highway.

The little female Common Wombat joey, now named ‘Mirrhi’, was rescued from along the Hume Highway where its mother had been struck and killed by a car. The joey, which is thought to be about six months old, with a soft covering of light grey fur was found some distance away from its dead mother with an abrasion to its head.

A thorough veterinary check at Taronga Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital revealed Mirrhi also had some minor bruising and broken claws, but no other major injuries.

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Being such a young wombat and weighing just one kilogram, Mirrhi would still be living in its mother’s pouch and totally reliant on her, so the joey was placed in the dedicated care of surrogate mother, Amy Twentyman, Taronga Zoo Wildlife Hospital Nurse.

Just like raising a human baby, Amy has to get up at all hours of the night to bottle feed and tend to Mirrhi needs, including helping the joey go to the toilet and offering the comfort and security that it would have received from its wombat mother.

“It’s harder than a human baby though, I can’t just pop down to the shops with a wombat so I have to time everything around the feeds. It’s very much a balancing act,” said Amy.

Despite being very scared, and difficult to feed when it arrived at the Zoo, in just a few days, Mirrhi has come on in leaps and bounds, is putting on weight and has got used to the artificial baby bottle’s teat for feeding.

“Mirrhi  is an Aboriginal word for ‘little girl’, but even though she is small at the moment and can fit in my two hands, it won’t be long before she becomes a typical little wombat, very boisterous and feisty. Being a mostly nocturnal animal she is really active in the middle of the night, so I’m pretty sleep deprived, but it’s a labour of love.”

“With her soft covering of fur and pink skin, she’s absolutely adorable and all the vet nurses and hand-rearing staff at the Zoo were drawing straws to be her surrogate mother, so I am definitely the lucky one.”

“Once Mirrhi is weaned she will be transferred to a wombat ‘half way house’ where she will learn to forage for her own food. There will be limited human contact at this time so that Mirrhi becomes independent and learns how to care for herself before being released into the wild,” said Amy.

Taronga Zoo keepers often play Mum and Dad to a host of native wildlife after they become orphaned, usually due to road accidents or attacks by domestic pets. The Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital treats and rehabilitate up to 1500 native animals each year including possums, bandicoots, wombats, birds, Sea Turtles and Little Penguins.

“With lots of us driving to holiday destinations over the summer break, it’s important to take special care to avoid accidents with wildlife.  Native animals are often active along roads at dusk and dawn.  If holidaymakers encounter injured or orphaned animals they should contact local wildlife rescue services for assistance,” said Amy.