By Wildlife Carer, Rachel Aspinall
For many people, there’s not much difference between a kangaroo and a wallaby, let alone the various species of each of those classifications. Even for experts, or at least experienced wildlife enthusiasts such as me, sometimes animals can be very hard to tell apart – especially baby joeys!
Not too long ago I had a beautiful young wallaby come into care, thanks to a young mother and her two boys out near Imbil finding her. At the beginning she was furless, delicate and needed to be fed every three hours, a recipe for sleep deprivation. As a mother of four humans and dozens of fuzzy children, I’ve gotten used to this, but it never becomes easy.
At the time I also had another pair of juvenile Red-necked Wallabies, who had been named Dobby and Winky in a Harry Potter house elf theme, so the newest addition became Hokey.
Hokey was kept warm in a humidicrib until her fur developed, but before the hair shows, the skin colouring also changes. In Hokey’s case, her facial skin looked remarkably dark in comparison to the other two red-necked wallabies.
Then as her fur grew out, she developed a strong black stripe down the line of her spine at which point I realised that she was actually a Black-striped Wallaby (the reason for the name being pretty obvious!) They’re a smaller breed than the Red-necked Wallabies and so measuring her development based on size and weight needed to be adjusted for her actual species.
Hokey went on to become a real mischief maker. It started off with a very cute habit of hopping into the pocket of my dressing gown every morning as I fed the other little ones. Further on, her confident nature expressed itself into a very demanding attitude at feeding time.
Being a small breed, Hokey got smaller amounts of milk and would finish far faster than the large Eastern Grey Kangaroo joeys I was looking after alongside the wallabies. So after polishing off her bottle, Hokey would become determined to steal milk off the other joeys, even attempting to climb up their backs to reach the teats that I placed higher than she could reach.
Or she would try jumping up to reach them; knocking teats off bottles and spilling milk everywhere. You would be amazed at how much chaos a tiny wallaby joey can cause.
Black-striped Wallabies don’t come into care very often, so I needed to find another carer who had other Black-striped Wallabies that were also native to the area for her to be released with.
Eventually I found a lovely carer, Paula, near Gympie who has taken over the care of Hokey where she can play with other joeys as cheeky as she is. In her place I now have a very young joey identified as a Red-necked Wallaby, all the way from Injune, enjoying the warmth of the humidicrib and I’ve noticed his skin darkening too. It’s still too early to tell how far it will go but perhaps I’m in for another surprise!
These beautiful joeys have come into care when people stopped to check pouches of animals they found on the roadside. If you aren’t comfortable with checking a pouch, then please call a local wildlife group to check it out. Joeys can live in a dead mother’s pouch for several days so a quick examination could save a young life.