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Madeleine Smitham
New Feathertail Glider joeys

Taronga Keepers have welcomed at least five tiny Feathertail Glider joeys to the energetic group in a rare breeding success. 

 Keepers have spotted two joeys nearly ready to leave the nest boxes and three more that are still furless, blind and suckling with their mothers.

 Australian Fauna Keeper, Rob Dockerill, said: “We were the first Zoo to ever breed these tiny marsupials so it’s always exciting when we see joeys start to emerge.

 “When they’re born they’re only the size of half a grain of rice. They then spend about 63 days in the pouch emerging furless and blind. The mothers only weigh 15 grams, so by the time the joeys reach nestling size mum’s feet wouldn’t touch the ground.”

 “The young are kept in communal nests and the females of the group take turns looking after them.”

 The older joeys are now about 14 weeks old and will soon be out of the nests and scurrying around their home in the Australian Nightlife Exhibit with about 30 other Feathertail Gliders.

 “We’ve found that having a large group of gliders helps them breed. Since we started breeding them in 1988 we’ve seen up to 200 joeys emerge, in that same time only a handful of other gliders have been bred in other Zoos.”

 Despite their previous celebrity status as they once featured on the 1 cent coin, not a lot is known about these tiny animals in the wild.

 “In the wild they’re presumed to be on least concern, but when you’re half the size of a mouse and swoop around after dark, not a lot of people pay attention to you, and if they do they’re not necessarily going to guess the right thing. They are easily mistaken for a mouse.”

 "They can glide up to 25 meters and they’re very speedy so they have these fantastic natural tricks to help them survive because, when you’re tiny everything is out to eat you.”

 “I think they’re fun, they’re great to watch racing around their exhibit and gliding between the branches. Microscopic hairs on their feet mean they can run up glass so there’s always lots of action going in the Australian Nightlife Exhibit.”

 Like most glider species, Feathertail Gliders live along the east coast of Australia where there are lots of trees for food and shelter.

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