Did you miss Part 1 of Merrilyn's story? You can find it here.
There are 3 things that a pouch offers a joey; warmth, security and proper development.
This is an older joey but the concept is the same for all. They lie in a U shape with their legs and tail curled around to meet their head. It may not seem comfortable for a human, but it’s the way it’s meant to be for a kangaroo joey, the curve being very important for their future flexibility. Lying them in a standard bed you might use for another animal is out of the question.
A hospital box is often used when a joey first comes into care. This is like a humidi crib for a new born. When a joey is fur less it’s very important to ensure the temperature is right. Too cold and the organs will start to shut down, too hot and the same problem can occur and fur growth will be restricted.
A very young joey may spend 24 hours a day in a hospital box, only coming out to be fed and toileted. Then they may spend the day out of the hospital box and the night in it until they are old enough to maintain their own body temperature.
There are no photos of Merrilyn in the hospital box, but here is a shot of a swamp wallaby in one. There is a lid that closes and you can see the lead for the thermostat that controls the temperature in the box.
Once Merrilyn was out of danger she was transferred her to a pouch outside the hospital box. It’s not easy to mimic a kangaroo pouch, so we tried quite a few designs whilst involved in animal care. Initially Merrilyn went into a shoulder bag style arrangement.
As you can see there are several layers and all from natural, breathable fibres. Old soft cotton t-shirts with the arms cut off and made into U shaped pouches with an over locker. Wool linings and an old school bag to hold it all together and that can be hung from a door knob or hook. This was one of the first times I took Merrilyn out side and she wasn’t yet able to get out of the pouch, but enjoyed her first nuzzles at the grass. Contact with grass and dirt is extremely important for young joeys so they can build up their immunity.
As we worked on better designs that could more easily mimic a kangaroo mother pouch we eventually came up with this design.
It was on a wooden frame that could be altered to be upright – think of a kangaroo mom standing upright with the pouch on the front, or tipped like this, so the joey can lean out and nuzzle at dirt and grass, as if the mother was eating grass herself.
At this point, I thought Merrilyn was just another kangaroo joey that I was raising to be released here, little did I know that we would share an incredible bond and many adventures over the years. Stay tuned for the next Merrilyn posting and sign up for the email subscription if you don’t want to miss a thing.