Wilbur the Red-necked Wallaby has found happiness with a new family after his birth mother tragically passed away while he was still in the pouch. He has been ‘adopted’ by another female at Blackpool Zoo, which is an extremely rare occurrence among marsupials.
Keepers came to work on June 16 to find Wilbur in the pouch of his mother, who had died during the night. They immediately removed him and the decision was taken to hand-rear him. Senior mammal keeper Sofie Fawzy took Wilbur home and fed him at three hour intervals for eleven days before the team decided to mix him with other members of the group for interaction.
Another mother and baby were already in a separate area of the Wallaby Walkabout so the orphan was gradually introduced. Keepers were amazed to see that after just two days Wilbur was feeding from the female and getting on with well with the other joey. The situation was very closely monitored and keepers continued to weigh Wilbur to ensure he was gaining weight at a satisfactory speed. Wilbur and his new family will remain cordoned off from the rest of the group as they continue to bond, but should be out and about in the Wallaby Walkabout in the coming month.
Read more of the wallaby baby story after the jump:
“Wallabies are not classed as officially born until they leave the pouch but we estimated that Wilbur was around seven months old when his mother passed away," Fawzy continued. "He should have remained in the pouch for another three to six months so we were sceptical as to whether he would survive. We put all our efforts into hand-rearing Wilbur. We like to ensure that our hand-reared animals have as much time as possible with their own species so they learn natural behaviours and are able to survive once they are introduced back into the group. As we already had a mother and baby in a separate area we thought it would be an ideal opportunity to let him mingle with his own kind and were astounded when he started to feed from her.”
There are currently nine Red-necked Wallaby males and 11 females at Blackpool Zoo, with seven of the females currently carrying a joey in the pouch and one caring for a baby that recently came out. Six Red Kangaroos can also be found in Wallaby Walkabout, one of which is a joey that left the pouch in February. Blackpool Zoo has a long and successful history of breeding wallabies and kangaroos and it has housed both species since it opened 40 years ago.