For the first time, Taronga Zoo has been able to record the remarkable development of a Swamp Wallaby joey from just two weeks of age. About five and a half months ago Australian Fauna Keeper Lyn with Zoo photographer Lorinda started photographing the finger-sized joey once a week.
On camera they have documented its development, from its almost-embryonic ears right through to the development of claws. Most weeks they’ve also been able to weigh the joey and take other measurements which allow Taronga Keepers to better understand its development in the pouch. This data is really important as Keepers often become surrogate parents to wildlife that arrives via the Taronga Wildlife Hospitals, helping them to better determine the age of the joey and the care it needs.
Billa’s mother, Willa, was brought to the Zoo via the Taronga Wildlife Hospital in 2009. Keeper Lisa became her surrogate mother, taking her home every night to bottle feed and give her the care and attention she would received from her real mother. As she was cared for from a young age, she couldn’t be released back into the wild, but joined other wallabies and kangaroos when she was at the age of becoming independent.
Click on the above photo to see the album.
Keeper Lyn, who now looks after Willa, says she’s a very special joey.
Lyn said: “She’s a one in a million. Willa is exceptionally trusting and seeks Keepers out for a pat.”
From an early age Lyn got Willa used to having her pouch checked, so that when she did become a mother, keepers looking inside and touching her was nothing out of the ordinary.
Lyn said “I’m sure Willa associates the pouch check with treat time. Even before she was carrying a joey I got her used to pouch checks. We always give her a handful of corn to keep her occupied and now when we take the joey out for weighing she happily leaves us to baby sit Billa while she goes about her business.”
Even though Willa has been carrying the joey for many months, it’s only now that visitors to Taronga’s Wild Australia would be aware of her presence. In the last few weeks she has grown to the size where she dangles her feet and tail out of the pouch.
“Billa is now lightly covered in velvet fur and gets herself out of the pouch every now and then to do a couple of laps around mum before deciding to return. She has certainly become very curious about the outside world.”
It’s still a long time before Billa will become independent, but she’s just started to pick up leaves. It hasn’t clicked yet that they’re actually food, but it’s certainly a sign that she’s growing up.