Spring has sprung at Taronga Western Plains Zoo and many tiny faces are starting to emerge from deep within the pouches of their mothers. Earlier this year, Hunter, a male Swamp Wallaby, joined the breeding program at the Aussie walkthrough exhibit. So far, Hunter has proved to be a successful breeder, with all of our female wallabies confirmed to be carrying pouch young at varying stages of development.
Locally abundant, the Swamp Wallaby is a common sight around the local region, especially as the sun begins to drop below the horizon. It can often be seen grazing on native grasses or munching on the leaves, fruits, flowers and bark of our native plant species in a variety of forest habitats. Recognisable by its dark colouration and broad range of colours throughout its thick coat, the most distinguishable feature of the Swamp Wallaby is its light yellow to pale brown cheek stripe that runs just above the jaw line.
An interesting fact about wallabies is that they can have a joey at three different stages of development. They can have one permanently attached to their teat and completely concealed by the pouch, another at their heel, not quite independent of mum yet and one still nestled deep within her womb waiting to be born when the youngest joey vacates her pouch. The mother ensures that conditions are right such as weather, food and water availability, before she decides to release it. When young joeys are born, they are completely undeveloped and are only about the size of a jellybean. They must make the treacherous journey from the birth canal, through thick fur before reaching the comfort and security of their mum’s pouch. It is here that they stay for eight to nine months before they begin to emerge. They will continue to suckle until the age of about 15 months when they too are ready to breed.
When you next visit the Aussie Walkthrough at the Zoo be sure to look out for all our baby bumps!
By Tessa Baker, Australian fauna keeper