A Wallaroo joey is currently being hand-raised by zookeepers at Oakland Zoo. The joey was orphaned when his mother passed away, earlier this month, from an infection.
The male joey is approximately 5 months old. He will be receiving round-the-clock nurturing and care until he is about 8 months of age, when a joey normally emerges from a mother’s pouch. At that age, he will be housed with other Wallaroos in the Zoo’s “Wild Australia” exhibit and learn to be independent.
The joey, yet to be named by his keepers, is bottle fed seven times per day with a high-grade baby formula manufactured in Australia called ‘wombaroo’. Bundled inside a makeshift pouch in a temperature-controlled room, he is also given water twice per day for hydration, as the inside of a mother’s pouch provides moisture and warmth.
The joey’s mother, named Maloo, was three years of age and a first-time mother. On March 1, while on exhibit, she had removed the joey from her pouch, an indication to zookeepers of a problem. Oakland Zoo veterinarians examined her, discovering that she was in need of antibiotics due to an infection. She was treated, but sadly died the following day.
“While staff is very sad about the passing of Maloo, we are working with other AZA facilities to be best prepared for the intense care required to successfully hand-raise a Wallaroo. We are keen to get to know the little joey and prepare him for life with the rest of the mob,” said Andrea Dougall, Assistant Zoological Manager at Oakland Zoo.
Keepers are taking the joey outside for sun twice per day, and zoo veterinarians are also closely monitoring the infant’s progress. In addition to weight monitoring, tail length, feet, and head size are measured during daily physical exams to ensure health and proper growth. This hands-on infant care will continue for the next three months, until he has grown enough to live independently.
The Wallaroo (Macropus robustus or wallaroo) is any of three closely related species of moderately large macropod, intermediate in size between Kangaroos and Wallabies. The word "wallaroo" is from Dharug (Australian Aboriginal language) walaru.
In general, a large, slim-bodied macropod of the open plains is called a "kangaroo"; a small to medium-sized one, particularly if it is relatively thickset, is a "wallaby": most Wallaroos are only a little smaller than a kangaroo, fairly thickset, and are found in open country. All share a particular habit of stance: wrists raised, elbows tucked close into the body, and shoulders thrown back, and all have a large, black-skinned rhinarium.