Joey Joy at the Safari Park!
Keepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park had their hands full—in a fun way—when three baby wallabies, called joeys, needed help. The joeys are Bennett’s red-necked wallabies. Named Laura, Thelma, and Tatum, they were only about six months old when they arrived at the Animal Care Center. They still needed many milk feedings every day, as well as a cozy pouch to curl up in.
A wallaby joey spends about nine months in its mother’s pouch. At the Safari Park, keepers used special pouches made out of a soft material. A mother wallaby would stand up to let her joey stick its head out to see, smell, and hear the world. The Park keepers hung the pouches in a way so that Laura, Thelma, and Tatum could do the same thing.
When it is feeding time, the keeper calls a joey by name and waits for it to come out of the pouch. The joeys drink a special kangaroo milk replacer formula from bottles with long, thin nipples. The keepers watch the joey carefully as it drinks. If the joey is having a hard time, the keeper will try a different nipple.
Once a joey has a full stomach, it often explores the room. Laura, Thelma, and Tatum bounce around, sniffing this and that. They also have a small mirror—they seem to like looking at themselves. Each day, keepers take the girls outside for some romping in the sun and fresh air—just like a mama wallaby would.
When playtime is over, it’s back to the pouch for a rest. Inside the pouch is a snuggly blanket and some hay. The keepers put the hay there because a mama wallaby often stuffs grass inside her pouch. Even though her joey is nursing, it begins to eat small bits of plants. Each joey has its own pouch, but sometimes they like to double up. Tatum, Thelma, and Laura are growing into great friends!