A marsupial joey is unable to regulate its own body
temperature, and thus relies upon an external heat source. Until the joey
is well furred and old enough to leave the pouch, a pouch temperature
between 30-32° Celsius must be constantly maintained. The most reliable
and convenient method for keeping a kangaroo or wallaby joey warm is a
small electric blanket (See Cosy Heat Pads), available from
Healthy Bird (manufactured
by Wombaroo Food Products), which is hung on the inside of a box or
carton with the joey's pouch hung against it. The pouch temperature can be
controlled by adding (or removing) layers of cloth placed between the
pouch and the heat source. Slow combustion stoves and hot water bottles
can also be used, provided you are prepared to check that they are always
maintained constantly at 30-32° Celsius.
For possums, use a 15 watt globe in a large tin covered
with, soft, woollen material as an external heat source. Punch holes
around the top of the tin to stop the heat build-up from breaking the
globe. It is possible to "COOK" the joey and kill it from overheating, so
be careful to keep the pouch temperature controlled. A joey is unable to
lower its own body temperature by perspiring, although as the animal gets
older, it does learn to achieve some cooling from evaporation by licking
its fore paws. If the joey is licking its fore paws in the pouch, then it
is too hot. Placing your hand into the pouch will give a guide to the
temperature. DO NOT fold electric blankets around the joey as overheating
can result. EMERGENCY heating can be achieved by placing the joey down the
front of your jumper.
Pouches are ideally made of soft, washable material,
such as old blankets, old sheets, jumpers and windcheaters. The joey
should be wrapped up and placed in such a way that it remains in a natural
position. With unfurred marsupials, it is wise to rub the skin with baby
oil to reduce fluid loss and to maintain humidity.
KANGAROOS: The pouch should be just big enough
for the joey to move around in, but keep the joey snug. It is advisable to
keep the joey's pouch inside a larger bag or sack, which can be suspended,
making sure the bottom of the bag is not touching the ground. When the
joey reaches the stage where it is emerging from the pouch, the bag should
be kept closer to the ground so the joey can leave or enter the pouch
POSSUMS: A sock or a small woollen hat is
suitable as a substitute pouch. For small, pre-emerging from the pouch
stage possums, a safety pin securing the top of the pouch prevents the
possum from getting out and becoming lost and cold. Older possums eating
solids should have their substitute pouch in a cat or cocky cage, so that
the possum can move around and feed during the night. Place a ring of wire
around the top of the sock to keep it permanently open, so the possum can
enter or leave the pouch unaided.
WOMBATS: The pouch, with another blanket inside,
can be placed in a solid wooden box with a secure lid, essential as the
wombat gets older. An electric blanket can be placed underneath half of
the box to maintain a constant temperature, but enable the animal to cool
off if necessary. Wombats joeys are capable of controlling their body
temperature much better than kangaroo joeys.
The newly orphaned joey is likely to be suffering from
shock and stress as a result of the incidents leading to its rescue.
Injuries, such as fractures or bites, will require veterinary attention.
Stress will be suffered as a result of separation from the mother, due to
loss of warmth and nourishment.
Make your joey secure in a substitute pouch with warmth
if required. Leave the joey alone until it has settled, and restrict
initial handling to one person. Handling, particularly by small children
can be stressful and can lead to death. Any cuddling and handling should
be done with the joey in its pouch where it feels safe. The joey needs the
same kind of treatment as a premature human baby, and should not be
treated like a cuddly toy. Your orphaned marsupial needs peace and quiet,
security and proper nourishment.
Marsupial milk changes during lactation to provide the
nourishment required at the different stages of joey development. Wombaroo
Food Products produce Milk Replacers (See Kangaroo
Milk Replacer, Koala Milk Replacer,
Possum Milk Replacer, Wombat
Milk Replacer, and Echidna Milk Replacer) which are designed for individual
marsupials, and are graded according to age of the joey to mirror the
changes which occur in nature. There are four grades for kangaroos, three
for wombats, and two each for possums and echidnas. Wombaroo Food Products
also produce growth charts which use tail, foot and weight measurements to
help you determine the age of your joey so that you can relate it to the
correct age factor Milk Replacer. These growth charts also give the
recommended amounts of milk to be fed, which should not be exceeded
without proper advice. Wombaroo Milk Replacer is produced as a dry powder
to which water is added. It lasts in its powdered form for 24 months.
When feeding, warm the required amount of milk,
checking the temperature on the inside of your wrist. Feed the joey using
a bottle and a teat. The joey should be fed in its pouch, as this reduces
stress, however, remove the joey from the pouch to toilet it. If the joey
struggles and makes it difficult to feed, hold the animal securely into
your body, cup your hand under its chin and gently cover its eyes. This
quietens the joey and makes feeding easier.
A joey's mouth is easily damaged, and ulcers or small
irritations can occur if normal baby teats or hard tubing are substituted
for the correct teat. Feeding bottles and a range of specially made, soft
rubber teats, designed for various marsupials are available from Wombaroo
suppliers such as Healthy Bird (See
Latex Teats & Feeding Bottles). As an emergency measure, however, a piece of soft tubing or a
plastic eye dropper can be used.
The following formulae can be used until advice and the
correct Wombaroo Milk Replacer can be obtained.
Kangaroos: FULL CREAM evaporated milk or
powdered milk at half strength, warmed and given using a long teat.
Possums: FULL CREAM powdered milk, at half
strength, sweetened with honey, slightly warmed and given using a small
teat or dropper.
Wombats: FULL CREAM powdered milk, at half
strength, with baby cereal (e.g. Farex) added to it. This mixture is
carefully spooned into the wombat joey’s mouth.
Intermediate Kangaroos, those which are emerging from
the pouch, should be introduced to solid foods, They should be supplied
with fresh grass, including the roots and attached soil, lucerne hay, in
moderation, rolled oats, kangaroo pellets, carrots, apples, bark and salt
bush. The grasses should be tied into a bundle and hung on the inside of
the pouch. Early in the season the grass may not have dried out, so care
should be taken when feeding grasses as the high water content can lead to
diarrhoea. Do not exceed the recommended quantity of Wombaroo Milk
Replacer, or the joey will not be hungry enough to eat solid foods.
When initially introducing Wombats to solid foods, they
can be fed a couple of teaspoons of Heinz High Protein baby cereal mixed
into the Wombaroo Milk Replacer. You will need to wrap the wombat very
tightly in a towel to restrict its movements while you feed it with a
teaspoon. Carrots, apples, lucerne hay, rolled oats and lucerne pellets
are all food stuffs wombats can be weaned onto, not forgetting their
natural diet of grass and roots.
Possums enjoy fruits such as apples and pears,
vegetables, gum leaves and bottle brush. Roses are particular favourites,
however, BEWARE of PESTICIDES.
Joeys are normally stimulated to defaecate and urinate
by the mother's licking, so after each feed, gently but firmly rub the
genital area of the joey with a tissue or toilet paper to stimulate the
joey. Continue stimulating until the joey stops defecating and urinating.
Failure to do this may lead to urinary tract / kidney and bowel disease.
If there are episodes of diarrhoea, a nappy may be
needed, but utmost care and frequent changes are required to prevent
chaffing. A nappy can be made out of a square piece of material. Place the
nappy on your knee / thigh with padding a third of the way up. Place the
joey facing downwards straddling your leg, with the padding under the anal
area. Bring the corners in to meet at just above the tail, and pin.
Disposable nappies are easier and can be used by cutting an opening for
the tail. If diarrhoea persists, seek professional advice.
||thick and coarse, distinctly hairy
||woolly, soft, no long hair
||fur short, close, no long hair
||brown and black
||male red, doe smokey grey; colour may
reverse, depending on location
||white areas around nose
||naked like a dogs
||rocky areas, hills, ranges
||more dense scrub,
||lightly wooded areas
||NB. Ranges overlap
||Coat colour alone can be
misleading, a "grey" is brown and a "red" can be grey!
Brushtail Possum - end of tail is black
Ringtail Possum - end of tail is white
Dry Skin - Use baby oil, hand cream or lanolin.
Dry skin occurs because the substitute pouch is dry and unlike the
mother’s skin pouch.
Diarrhoea - Once established on Wombaroo,
diarrhoea should not be a diet related problem, although if excess
quantities of milk are used a volume related diarrhoea can occur. Avoid
chills, fear (stress), and handling by strangers. These can cause an
attack of diarrhoea, which, once started, is often difficult to stop.
KAOMAGNA, ADM and PECTIN (Jamsetta) are worth trying along with reduced
volumes of milk per feed. These substances are fed independently of the
Sometimes a newly acquired joey takes 24-48 hours to
settle in due to stress and adjusting to the milk formula. Do not confuse
this with diarrhoea. Do not panic if the joey is loose when you toilet it,
if it is holding on between feeds it is still adjusting.
Sometimes joeys develop diarrhoea due to a lack of
digestive organisms in the gut, and these need to be introduced. This can
be done using Commercially available, coccidia-free, organism sources,
such as Wombaroo Gamma-G Colostrum Replacer. Contact Healthy Bird via the
links page for further information on this product.
Dehydration - This is the biggest danger of
continued diarrhoea. The simple test for this is pinch the skin anywhere
it is loose. If it drops back into position quickly when released the
animal is alright. If it stays up the animal is dehydrated and needs
Sickness - Wild animals do not show symptoms as
plainly as dogs or cats, and when they do it means they are really sick,
so contact your local vet quickly. Symptoms may be a lack of appetite,
drinking less per feed, weakness, falling over, lethargy - in short,
anything which is different from its normal behaviour.
Kangaroos whew their cud, in the same manner as a cow
or sheep does, so what you may think is vomiting or choking is in fact a
perfectly normal "bringing up of the cud".
Antibiotics - Due to their reliance on
intestinal micro-organisms to digest their food, marsupials should
NEVER be given antibiotics by mouth, only by injection.
Immunisation - All kangaroos and wallabies are
susceptible to tetanus and it is most important to have your animal
immunised. 5in1 vaccine can be used, but preferably use Tetanus Toxoid.
Castration - A tame buck is as dangerous and
unreliable as a bull. No matter how gentle he has been, one day he will
treat you or your children as a mate or rival, and either can be equally
traumatic. Do not use elastra rings for castration because the hole is
too large and will allow blood through. The best to have your kangaroo
castrated is before it is totally out of the pouch, which depending on
species, is normally between the age of 8-12 months. Contact vet or your
Wombaroo agent for further advice.
Entire male possums, especially brushtails, and entire
male wombats can be particularly belligerent once sexually mature and
should also be castrated if being kept.
It should be noted that once female wombats reach
sexual maturity they can also became quite antisocial.
Release - Never release a hand reared animal
into its wild without first thinking through the problems.
|Has it learnt to recognise a food source in the
|Is it a native to the area?
|Can it recognise predators?
|Will it suffer undue stress?
|Will it stress existing fauna?
Ringtail possums will be content in captivity all their
lives but brushtails are perhaps best released once adult. Wait for the
warmer weather of the late spring and leave food out for it until it stops
coming back for it.
Never release a castrated animal or one that has
Tame kangaroos can not be released to the wild with any
safety, and as they can live up to 20 years, think hard before you decide
to keep a kangaroo or wallaby in captivity.
NOTE that in South Australia it is illegal to release
any animal into the wild without prior written permission from the
Director of the National Parks and Wildlife.
Weaning is a time when most mistakes re made. Kangaroos
and wombats are on milk for as long again once they leave the pouch as
they were in the pouch. That is to say, for example, a Red Kangaroo joey
would normally stay in its mother’s pouch for about 7 months; therefore it
should not be totally weaned off milk until it is at least 14 months of
During this time the pouch should be available for the
joey to return to in case it feels threatened or cold. Ideally, the pouch
should he hung in a small draught free shed which opens into a small yard.
Solid food should be freely available.
A heater light should be hung in the shed for inclement
weather and for macropods out of their normal range, e.g. Reds in
Adelaide. Wombats also need a heater light if a suitable burrow is
unavailable. The longer wombats and kangaroos are kept on milk, the
friendlier they remain.
Possums tend to wean themselves, so a thick-walled
hollow log should be provided once this has happened and the pouch is no
longer needed. If they are going to be released then this log should be
"released" with them to provide an initial haven. Ideally the possum
should be kept over its first winter and summer as this is when food is
hardest to come by. Provide the food stuffs that will be available in the
environment the possum is to be released into e.g. the leaves of trees and
shrubs native to the release area.
The Wombaroo growth charts available for the different
species gives approximate age at which the animal can be expected to leave
the pouch. This is NOT to be confused with the age at which to stop
feeding milk or start weaning. It is much better to allow the animal to
tackle one major change at a time, therefore maintain your feeding routine
unchanged when the joey leaves the pouch. Some joeys need encouragement to
leave the pouch, but forcing a rebellious one to stay in the pouch will
only lead to problems.
The animal should leave its small pouch for a secure
environment which mimics that which it has just left in that it is draught
free, has a constant temperature and provides minimum stress. Only once
the animal has settled into this new environment - a process that takes
several weeks, not days, can a reduction in the number of daily feeds be
commenced.. You must first ensure that large volumes of solids are being
consumed and regular weighing of the joey is a good method to check
progress. Most times the joey will tell you if it wants the bottle or not.
Remember, even adult kangaroos like the occasional bottle.
It is always better to bottle feed for too long and
have a healthy joey than to wean too quickly and have either a stunted
joey or worse still a joey that dies. If you are unsure, then please seek
advice from someone experienced in these matters, e.g. the
Society of Australia Inc. or your Wombaroo supplier.
Kangaroos - You will need to provide shelter and
warmth for your joey until it is at least 2 years old. The first winter
out of the pouch is a critical time and it is advised to have the animal
in a shed at night with a heater light in it. These are available from
stock agents. Preferably, all perimeter fences should be 8ft high and fox
and dog proof. Try and keep the yard clean and as well drained as
possible. Do not keep too many kangaroos in a small area otherwise they
will suffer stress-related problems.
Do not keep kangaroos in chicken coop with poultry, or
that have contained poultry, as such environments may be contaminated
resulting in coccidiosis infection in the animals. Adequate natural
shelter from the elements, such as trees and shrubs, plus sheds protecting
them from prevailing weather are essential. Don't forget to take into
account which way the worst of the winter weather comes from.
Wombats - Wombats require a yard with a strong
fence (i.e. cyclone) dug about a metre into the ground and a substitute
for a burrow such as a concrete pipe with at least 1/2 metre of earth over
it. Alternatively, a mesh floor can be used, one again with a metre of
soil and concrete pipe burrows underground. Wombats have a very low
tolerance to heat so the burrow must be cool even in the hottest of
weather. If the burrow is not satisfactory, cooling may be required. A
thermometer to check the temperature in the burrow is a good idea, but do
not attempt this when the wombat is in residence. The yard should be well
drained and preferably have some shelter and the capacity to be
artificially heated if need be. Beware, burrows may flood in wet weather,
and your wombat could drown.
Possums - Once possums leave the pouch, they
like to live in hollow logs which they often line with gum branches and
leaves. You should provide your possum with a log in a large cage or small
aviary, which itself should be fairly protected from inclement weather. In
fact, possums destined to be released should ideally be trained to use a
log while captive, then released with the same log to maintain a certain
FURTHER INFORMATION AND ADVICE
Regulations in South Australia require you to obtain a
Rescue Permit from National Parks and Wildlife when hand-raising
marsupials, even if you intend to release them. Permits can be obtained by
writing to your local National Parks and Wildlife office.
Help is always available - please feel free to contact
us should you need to. Use the 'phone number at the top of