These baby Numbats, photographed shortly after their mother deposited them in an underground burrow, are part of the Perth Zoo's Native Species Breeding Program. This unique program breeds Numbats and other endangered animals for release into the Australian wilderness. So far in 2012, 19 Numbats have been born at the zoo for release into the wild to help rebuild populations of this endangered marsupial.
The Perth Zoo has successfully hand-reared four baby Numbats after keepers noticed they were not suckling and losing weight. Numbats are termite-eating marsupials from Western Australia. Native Species Breeding Program (NSBP) keeper Dani Jose says this was the first time Numbats had been hand-raised from such a young age. “The babies hadn’t yet opened their eyes and weighed less than 15 grams. At this young age, they look quite different from adult Numbats. They hadn’t developed their stripes yet and their snouts were short and snubby,” Ms Jose says.
“They were kept in the veterinary hospital in warm, quiet conditions and fed six times a day including in the middle of the night. They were fed a special milk formula for marsupials through a very small teat. We were very glad to see that they started to thrive and put on weight.” Caring for Numbats from such an early age meant keepers were able to see developmental changes that usually happen out of sight.
“We discovered that their eyes open earlier than we previously thought. We also learned which milk formula worked best for them. The whole process was a new experience for us and has helped refine our knowledge.” explained Ms. Jose.