Adelaide Zoo
June 30, 2015

Zoo keepers in Adelaide, Australia, saved the life of an orphaned tree kangaroo by using a surrogate wallaby mother, in what the zoo says is a world first.

The joey, known as Makaia, was left orphaned at just five weeks when zoo keepers discovered that a fallen tree branch had killed his mother. As Makaia was too young to be hand-reared, the Adelaide Zoo staff decided to try to “cross-foster” the little kangaroo, placing the joey into the pouch of a surrogate wallaby mother.

While cross-fostering has been successfully done before, Adelaide Zoo veterinarian David McLelland said that this was the first attempt with a tree kangaroo. “Not only are tree kangaroos distant relatives of wallabies, they also have many behavioural and physical differences,” McLelland said in a press release on the Adelaide Zoo website. “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.”

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