Friday, May 27, 2011

On Grass - Merrilyn's story part 6

OK fess up, who came here looking for a different kind of grass - ala pot, weed, hash, something along those lines?  Chill out here for a while anyway, you'll feel even better.  This is the continuing story of a very special kangaroo.

Having overcome her initial illness, and having taken her first few hops from the pouch in the security of my lounge room, it was time to take Merrilyn out into the wild world for her first hops on grass.

With me close by, Merrilyn tentatively comes out of her pouch.  It's shady as we are under a tree.  Not to protect her from the sun, but to protect her from any birds of prey.  She's a little over 2kg and an easy target for local eagles.

Being a little more adventurous now, Merrilyn was willing to hop a way a few steps before turning around and coming straight back to me.

Standing up between my legs, feeling safe.  You can clearly see her developing pouch.  These initial times out of the pouch are a very dangerous time for a young joey.  In the wild 75% of joeys don't make it to 12 months of age.

After just a few minutes it's time to hop back into a now clean pouch.  A little bit of sun, in safety and then back into the house.  This connection with the grass and dirt is extremely important.  Joey's build their gut flora from nuzzling the ground as Mum walks along eating, so when you are raising them you need to find other ways to mimic this and I found a tray filled with bush dirt, (can't be garden bed or potting mix) and grass the way to go.  Merrilyn would lean out of her pouch and nuzzle in the dirt as she would in the wild.

On this first day outside though, the excitement had exhausted her and she promptly fell asleep!  I tried all kinds of positions to try and stop her flopping out like this - it didn't seem to be a problem for any other joey we raised - but this was a favourite position for Merrilyn and you'll see similar pictures as she grows.

If you've missed the rest of the story and the introduction of her "brother" Buster, you can find all the episodes here.  I post about Merrilyn every Friday, and sometimes post about other things on the environment or my piece of scrubby bush between.  If you don't want to miss a thing sign up for the email or feed on the side of this blog, and/or join as a friend.  If you enjoyed it, please share it via facebook or twitter. Thanks to all who leave comments, I'm thrilled you are enjoying the story and it has many, many adventures to come.

Also joining in some fun at come and join in the fun.

Friday, May 20, 2011

One small step - Merrilyn's Story Part 5

The first time a joey leaves the pouch is an incredibly dangerous time.  In the wild a female kangaroo will find a sheltered place away from other kangaroos.  If something happens in the few seconds the joey is out of the pouch it could spell disaster.  If the mother has to flee and the joey can't find the pouch in a split second it will be left behind as nature determines it can save the mother and produce another joey for the future, but if the mother stays both may be lost.  If the mother is inexperienced the joey may be in distress if it can't find it's way back to the pouch quickly and may suffer illness as a consequence of high stress levels.

The joey doesn't actually hop out.  The mother releases the muscles that keeps the pouch tight to her and the joey basically rolls out.  The first time it happens is a huge shock to the joey who simply turns around and hops straight back in.

A wild mother instinctively knows when the time is right, but as a human carer you have to judge it on weight and development.  If you try too early, you risk the fragile back legs that must develop properly to ensure they can flee predators.  Sometimes a joey will simply let you know it's time by trying to get out, especially wallabies.  However I found eastern grey kangaroos would happily stay pouch bound forever.  When the day finally arrived to see if Merrilyn was ready, I carefully laid the pouch down to mimic the release of the pouch muscles.  

Merrilyn came out tentatively and instinctively came straight towards me as she know thought of me as her mother.

I had a pouch liner ready and Merrilyn tumble turned straight into it, happy to be back in security.

And so the process begins.  The joey needs to hop out more often and stay out for longer periods as it gradually grows.  Merrilyn very quickly sorted out how to turn and find her way back to her pouch.

And for those of you wondering about Buster.  Well he and Merrilyn developed a friendship after Merrilyn's initial feisty greeting.

Until next time...

Have you missed the rest of the story?  Catch up here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Buster Arrives – Merrilyn The Kangaroo Part 4

Buster’s story began when I received a call from our wildlife care group coordinator asking me to call a family that had picked up a joey and kept him.  The joey’s mother had been killed by a car.  They had no care experience and were struggling to feed the joey and realised they might be doing him more harm than good so had phoned in for feeding advice.

I rang the mother and suggested they hand the joey into care as eastern greys need to be raised in groups.  She didn’t want to do that as her young son had grown very attached to him.  Though it is illegal for them to have kept the joey, they obviously cared about him and so I just talked to her and explained the process of his growing and she realised that at some point he could become a danger to her son.  She reluctantly agreed we could come and collect him.  He wasn’t close, he was way up in the tablelands a 270km/168mile round trip.

When we arrived we found the joey following a young boy around in the backyard.  He was constantly calling and the boy grinned at me and said “He talks to me all the time”.  I didn’t tell him that the joey’s sound was actually distress and a request for his pouch.  Though he was old enough to be in and out, he was too young to be spending any length of time out of the pouch.  They had been keeping him in a potato sack at night and syringing skim milk into him.  He was clearly dehydrated and hungry.  I had bought a pouch with me and the joey happily tumbled in as soon as I held it out, burying himself deep and out of sight.  It always amazed me that a joey would take to a man-made pouch so easily.  I think it was a dark place and so they were happy to hop in too hide.

The boy said a reluctant farewell, telling me he had named the joey Buster and I promised to keep the name and to keep the boy informed of his progress and we headed back down the mountain.  I tried to get some dehydration fluid into him but he was stressed out from his time with his rescuers and now being given into new hands.  Eastern grey kangaroos do not take to change easily and often become ill, so I knew great care had to be taken.

I was anxious to be home as this was also the longest I had left Merrilyn on her own.  She was much stronger now, but still not old enough to leave her pouch.  We arrived back and I managed to get some rehydration fluid into Buster with a bottle.  He slept in his pouch for a while and then tentatively hopped out.  Merrilyn was not pleased to see him.

I snapped this photo just after she had almost jumped out of her pouch to bop him on the nose with her tiny forepaw hissing at him, letting him know, from the beginning, that although she was his junior, she was the boss.  Poor Buster, at last he thought he had a familiar friend and his greeting was immediately rebuffed.  He was at least three times her size, but little Merrilyn was protecting her territory.  We fell about laughing at her feisty attitude.

We took Buster out into our fenced vegetable garden, as we knew he was big enough to run away if he wanted to and he had a stretch and even a very short hop.  He seemed in good condition, other than the dehydration, which would be easily fixed, and I had high hopes he would thrive and become a good companion for Merrilyn.  He took to us immediately and would only hop a few steps away before returning to the security of his new pouch.

These photos are from that first time in the veggie patch.  He took to my ex-husband and we decided that Stephen would look after Buster so I could concentrate on Merrilyn.

Seeing him having a scratch and doing some grooming was a good sign.  A sick joey often doesn't groom.

His first few hops.

He soon used his energy and lay down in the strawberry patch.  His personality was so different to Merrilyn.  Merrilyn was a survivor, feisty and demanding where as Buster was gentle and totally trusting. Considering he was a wild animal it was as if he was born with humans and knew exactly what we wanted of him.  He was a total delight.

Have you missed the first three parts of this tale?  You can catch up with these links.

I've also linked this up to Time Travel Tuesdays at Nicole's By Word of Mouth Musings.  Great blog - don't miss it!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's Just Not Fair

As a consumer you have ultimate power over the world we are developing.  Your choices make a huge difference, and not just to your hip pocket.  May 7th to 22nd is Fair Trade Fortnight.  A time to reflect on how fairly workers are treated in the countries our products come from.  

Chocolate is a case in point.  Many young children are badly exploited in the collection of the cacao beans and there is a huge move to push our chocolate manufacturers to move to Fair Trade sources of the beans to produce the chocolate we all love.  Did you notice the symbol in the bottom left hand corner of that chocolate block.

This symbol tells me I am not adversely affecting others when I buy this product.  There are fair trade organisations across the world and most are celebrating at the moment and urging consumers to join their programs.  I'd like to urge you to join in too.

Here are links to organisations in  Australia and New Zealand  USA Canada and the UK.  Take a look and consider how you can buy products that are Fair Trade Certified so that you ensure that your purchases aren't creating exploitation in other countries that we would never tolerate at home.

You might also like to see my blog on the issue of Gorillas and your mobile phone to make sure we all recycle our cell phones to ensure supplies of coltan and you might also consider this post on bamboo as a fabric of choice.

What we do today will make a real difference to the world we enjoy tomorrow.  As a chocoholic from way back I love eating fair trade chocolate - somehow it's even more yummy!

Friday, May 6, 2011

In One End and Out the Other - Merrilyn Part 3

Missed the first 2 parts?  Here's Part 1 and Part 2

You can't feed kangaroos any old thing.  Sadly some people find a joey, either when their mother is killed by a car, or when a dog chase separates mum and bub and they can't find each other again, and decide to take it home. This is great if they are going to hand it in to a trained wildlife carer or at least find out the right way to care for it, but it can prove to be a disaster when people just try to figure it out themselves, or worse, think they know what to do.

Most kangaroos and wallabies (together known as macropods - meaning "big foot"), are lactose intolerant, so normal cow's milk can cause them to become very ill and even die.  Fortunately, over time, good people have figured out the right formulas and they are readily available to wildlife carers.  There are several kinds of milk and the milk changes as the joey grows.  Amazingly female kangaroos can produce two different types of milk at the same time - one for the joey who is out of the pouch and hopping along at her heels and a totally different milk for the tiny furless new joey in her pouch.

The fact Merrilyn had been put on the wrong milk when first in care, (see Part 1), was one of the reasons she had been so ill when she came here.  Once we sorted it out Merrilyn loved her bottle!

In fact it was hard to get her to let go of her bottle, even when it was finished.

Little joeys also nuzzle at dirt and grass as their mothers graze and this helps their immune system to develop.

(I should have known what a character she was going to become by this photo!)

Initially Merrilyn was on 6 feeds a day.  Every 4 hours.  As she was ill she had medication in between feeds, so for the first three weeks I was up every two hours, twenty-four hours a day!   As they grow they move to fewer feeds but an eastern grey joey isn't weaned until it's between fifteen and eighteen months old.

So then you might ask about toileting - or "poo-ology" as I call it in my wildlife care manual.  This little joey couldn't hop yet and in the wild her mother would simply pop her head into the pouch and lick her joey's bottom, (or cloaca - pronounced clow, as in glow, aka, as it's known in kangaroos) and eat the results.  Now I loved Merrilyn instantly, but I wasn't going that far!

So when it comes to humans and kangaroos, you use a very soft, damp cloth, teased over the top of the cloaca and you catch and dispose of what results.  Joeys throw their legs up above their heads to expose the cloaca for their mothers and Merrilyn soon caught on:

In fact she seemed to love it:

She'd stretch her legs up and then fall into a comfortable sleep whilst I did what was necessary.

Merrilyn clearly trusted me from early in our relationship.  She was so lay back, she was as horizontal as a kangaroo joey can be.

One of the reasons I write this blog is to highlight the other beautiful creatures we share this planet with, and the fact they deserve a home too and human clearing can see them disappear, which is so sad.   According to the latest statistics from WWF, globally 230 million hectares of forests will disappear by 2050 if we take no action.  Sadly my country, Australia is the only developed country to rank in the top 10 of net forest lost between 2000 and 2010, in fact we ranked number 2.  I'll be letting my politicians know I'm not happy about that!  You can read more here.

Episodes of Merrilyn's story will appear on this blog once a week.  Next time, meet Merrilyn's new big brother, Buster!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Great Institutions turn 50 and 75

Who's your mentor?  Who inspires you?  Are you shocked when you hear how long some of them have been around?  I was!

Award winning Canadian geneticist, environmentalist and broadcaster, Dr David Suzuki certainly inspires me.  I've read quite a few of his books, but given that he has written 52 I still have many to go.  He first hit my mind with his TV series The Nature of Things with David Suzuki that came out in 1979.  David Suzuki has just turned 75!  You can read his full bio here.

At 75 he continues to work tirelessly for the planet and is engaging with the new generations.  One of his recent projects is Playlist for the Planet.  Hear him talk about it on this clip.

The other major influence on my initial involvement with things environmental was the World Wide Fund for Nature - more commonly known as WWF.  Everyone knows that panda symbol!  They are celebrating 50 years of work for the planet.  To celebrate they are asking you to join in by reducing your footprint on the planet.

Check out the ideas here

Don't groan, it's not that hard and it can save your hip pocket, as well as the planet.  One thing they are suggesting is ensuring any products you purchase that contain palm oil are those that ensure their palm oil source is sustainable.  Our blind consumption is costing us orang-utans and tigers as their habitat is destroyed to feed our hunger for processed foods.  So just stop for a moment and check it out - you can have your cake and eat it on this one.  Gotta be a good idea!

Check the products you buy and if they include palm oil ask the manufacturer or supermarket if the palm oil used is from a sustainable source, or give them this link so they can check it out for themselves  Fact is we live in a consumer driven world - if we ask about things and demand things are done in a better way, suppliers listen.

So happy birthday to Dr David Suzuki and WWF and thank you for all you do to help ensure we live on a great planet!