Makaia doesn’t know it, but he’s a walking, er, hopping history maker.
The kangaroo is the first of his kind to be raised by a surrogate wallaby, according to Australia’s Adelaide Zoo.
At just five weeks old, the Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo’s mother died suddenly when she was crushed by a falling branch at the zoo.
“Acting on pure adrenaline,” according to the zoo’s website, zookeepers decided to try something that had never been done with a tree kangaroo before: cross-fostering. The staff placed the joey (who was too young to hand raise) with a surrogate wallaby mother.
“We’ve had great success over the years’ cross-fostering between wallaby species, but the specialized breeding technique has never been used on a tree kangaroo,” said Adelaide Zoo veterinarian, Dr. David McLelland. “We had no idea if the yellow-foot would accept the tree kangaroo joey, but if we wanted to save the joey we had to try our luck.”
It looks like the zoo hit the jackpot.
“We were so excited when we confirmed the joey had made it past the first critical 24-hour-period,” said Gayl Males, the Adelaide Zoo’s team leader of natives. “We were uncertain as to whether the joey was going to be accepted. This joey was completely different from other joeys in body shape and behavior – it certainly wriggled around more than a wallaby joey!”
Makaia stayed with his yellow-foot rock wallaby mother for about three and half months until Males took over caring for him. “He’s certainly a cheeky little fellow and loves running amok, testing the boundaries using my home as his personal playground, climbing on everything, pulling toilet paper off the rolls, but he also loves quiet time cuddling with my husband in the evening while we watch TV,” said Males, who takes the kangaroo home with her in the evenings and on her days off because he still requires overnight feedings.
The Adelaide Zoo says it will share its findings with other zoos to help guide breeding efforts for the endangered tree kangaroo species.
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“Makaia is the result of all our hard work – we can’t wait to share his amazing story with the world!” she said.
The kangaroo will make its public debut in a feature story in the July/August edition of Australian Geographic, available on newsstands July 3rd.