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!