Orphaned Numbat Gets Expert Care


Found abandoned and separated from his mother, Frankie the orphaned Numbat is receiving expert care from keepers at Australia’s Perth Zoo.

Photo Credit:  Perth Zoo

Estimated to be about six to seven months old, Frankie is too young to survive on his own. Keepers have been working around the clock, feeding this baby Numbat more than five times a day.  He eagerly laps up milk from a tiny bowl.  He eats well and is gaining strength every day.

Frankie is so small that he fits right into his keepers’ hands.  They describe him as exceptionally relaxed and confident for a wild Numbat. 

This little orphan was brought to the zoo by a Project Numbat, community group dedicated to saving this endangered species.  The Perth Zoo has the world’s only Numbat breeding program.

Numbats are marsupials – after birth, their young nurse and develop inside the mothers’ pouch.  Adults weigh about one to two pounds and feed exclusively on termites.  They are currently found in only a few small colonies in Western Australia.  Only about 1,000 Numbats are believed to survive in the wild.

Baby Numbats are Born to be Wild


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. 


Photo Credit:  Perth Zoo

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Hand-rearing Baby Numbats

Baby Numbat Bottle Feeding at Perth Zoo 1

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.

Baby Numbat safely in hand at Perth Zoo1

Baby Numbat fills up at the Perth Zoo 1

Sleepy baby Numbat at Perth Zoo 1Photo credits: Perth Zoo

“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.