A baby wallaby which is being hand reared in a rucksack after being found abandoned is delighting keepers at Longleat with his progress.
The baby, who has been nicknamed Newt is thought to be around 30 weeks old. He has been adopted by keepers Gemma Short and Jodie Cobb, who take it in turns to carry his around in a substitute pouch made from a rucksack.
The red-necked wallaby, who was rescued from certain death after being found abandoned during the snowy weather, is thriving and appears particularly enthusiastic enjoying the long-delayed spring weather.
“It appears that for some reason his mum let him out of her pouch during the cold weather but then refused to let him back in again,” said keeper Gemma.
“We kept him under closer observation but when it became clear she had abandoned in we had to step in and hand rear him.
“Initially we had to feed him every two hours but now he feeds at four-hourly intervals and he’s starting to take solids.
“At first it felt a little strange to be carrying this rucksack around but after a while you do get used to it. He’s a real character and is beginning to venture out on his own again and explore the outside world,” she added.
At birth he weighed just 20 grams and was little larger than a baked bean. He would have had to crawl through his mother’s fur from the birth canal into the pouch where he began to suckle.
Volunteering to take over as surrogate mums has been a real labour of love for the keepers – especially with feeds every four hours day and night.
What’s more Gemma and Jodie will have to keep up their role as adopted parents for up to 18 months until the youngster is fully weaned and ready to return to the wallaby colony.
Originally from Tasmania and Eastern Australia, the red-necked wallaby is a hardy species and very capable of surviving in the harsh British weather conditions. There are a number of small groups living wild in Derbyshire and Sussex which originated from animals which escaped from zoos in the 1930s.