When kangaroo joeys are very young they are terrified of leaving their pouches. Helping to build their confidence and encouraging them to emerge from their pouch is one of the things you do as a carer. As joey develops and gets more and more confidence she ranges further away from her foster mum, but instinctively limits herself to within her calling range.
It this small aspect I’m going to talk about here, in the big scheme of things it is pretty inconsequential, but to a carer it could be critical. Joeys young enough to be on four bottles of milk a day can look extremely confident, run like the wind and act in a proper kangaroo manner, but can die in days if they had to fend for themselves, because they are too young to do so.
I live on 30 acres and although Agile Wallabies are not a species I care for, I have many wild ones on my property. As you would expect, I notice their behaviour as a matter of course. I watch as mother Agile, calmly nibbling the grass, keeps a watchful eye out as her Joey tears up and down past her, testing her speed and technique with sheer joy of life. I also notice that when the mother has problems due to unwanted attentions from amorous mates, she stashes her joey in a dense and sheltered area of bush whilst she leaves for extended periods trying to shake her suitors off . Whilst this is going on Joey keeps her head down and doesn’t move from that spot until Mum comes back. This is the important bit… Joey stays stashed away and hidden, instinctively.
I can almost hear you thinking, “So?”
Rarely do I get the privilege of caring for reds, but not so long ago I was caring for a red kangaroo orphan, she was very young and not anywhere near the age to be introduced to the staging pen. I was trying to get her used to being left alone for short periods out of pouch, in the small nursery pen next to the house. I was keeping a close eye on her whilst I was introducing her to this new routine and so observed she was acting ‘stashed’ behind a piece of shrubbery next to the gate. The difference between her though and every other macropod I’d had in previous years, was that when I returned she remained hidden and silent. My biggest mistake here, is that I didn’t notice that detail………. You have no idea how much I regret that now.
I noticed immediately.
What did I do differently? I ‘trained’ him to react to a special call (similar to one he made) and by staying out of sight until he did respond and only then would he get his bottle.
Now I know about this trait I’ll always be aware of it, but my goodness I so hate learning the hard way.
[ii] Emerging – Stage where joey starts leaving the pouch.