by Wildlife Carer, Rachel Aspinall 

A lot of people have that instinctive desire to help when they see something sick or injured – especially something as cute as a joey. 

I have come across several joeys that have been taken in by well-meaning people, who quickly fall in love with their joey and don’t want to give it up to someone else’s care. 

A few weeks ago I was asked by staff at Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital to take on Molly, an orphaned Red Necked Wallaby with a “guarded prognosis” – a delicate way of saying that as her carer I should be prepared for the worst. 

She was one of the most emaciated joeys I had come across. Molly weighed just 1.085kg and by her skeleton size she should have weighed around 1.6kg. She had chronic diarrhoea and her fur was patchy. 

Molly would hiss and was not very interested in her bottle. She would stand in the corner of my enclosure ignoring the other joeys and just hiss. It was heartbreaking to see and hear. 

Molly needed specialised milk for macropods with supplements to help her recover. With her delicate constitution but high nutritional requirements she had to be fed a little at a time very often. Molly had to be introduced to grass, as well as provided red dirt to supply essential minerals and promote her gut health. 

One particular technique that is very helpful here is to use termite mounds as a conveniently, naturally processed form of “clean” dirt that would help her body recover. It may seem unusual to us but dirt consumption is an essential part of Australian native herbivorous species’ development and when it is provided to them, joeys will eagerly go straight for it on their own with no prompting like a human child might with a box of chocolates. 

Thankfully it was not too late for Molly. After a few days she settled into her new home, she started to love her bottle and her new friends, she would cuddle up to the other joeys in their hanging pouch and the hissing stopped, as did the diarrhoea. After six weeks, Molly is now 2.4kg, her fur is thick and fluffy, she loves eating grass, drinking her milk and being with her best friends, other Red Necked Wallabies.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy or familiar to raise native wildlife as it might be for a conventional household pet such as a puppy. They have some very particular needs and require specialised care to develop healthily, as well as specially formulated products for their digestive systems that often aren’t easily accessible to the general public. 

We understand that lots of people would love to be a kangaroo mummy or have their own cute little baby koala to raise, but without a properly educated, experienced and licensed carer all too often the animals suffer instead – and often by the time their adopter realises that their animal is in urgent need of care, it’s too late. 

Even as an experienced carer, all wildlife arriving into care must be assessed by a vet. We don’t just rescue them and take them straight home! The most experienced wildlife vets on Sunshine Coast are those working at Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital and RSPCA Eumundi. 

Animals that are orphaned may already be suffering from dehydration and shock that will need immediate treatment. X-rays are also needed to identify any fractures resulting from trauma.  

We love how our community has the instinct to want to help, but you have to do the right thing for the animal you love and get it to an experienced wildlife veterinarian. 

We are so lucky to have Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, RSPCA Eumundi and other vets help us with care for our wildlife at no cost. And if you really, really want to raise a native joey on your own, consider approaching a wildlife carer or group to see if you can get trained up and join us in helping save our native animals! 

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