How Do You Know if There’s a Joey in the Pouch?

Three new joeys live in the kangaroo yard this year and all of them are mature enough to spend time out of the pouch. We can hardly believe they’re all over eight months old! But with all that time spent in the pouch, we wanted to know how early zoo keepers knew the mama kangaroos had joeys…and how they could tell!

Kangaroos are pregnant for only a month before giving birth to their jelly bean-sized baby (yay for ten-day trimesters), and zoo keepers may not even realize that a kangaroo is pregnant. Immediately after birth, the little one climbs all by itself into the pouch. This takes about 10 minutes. Sometimes zoo keepers witness the tiny bab’s ascent, and sometimes they don’t; so they rely on mom’s behaviors to help clue them in on the pregnancy.

Zoo keeper Marian Powers says it’s difficult to tell when a kangaroo is pregnant, so keepers watch for changes in behavior. “We record all observed breeding behavior, so we have some idea of things that may be happening,” says Powers. “We might also notice mom leaning and preparing her pouch. When the pouch is empty, it develops a waxy coating to keep the skin protected. When mom is getting ready to give birth, she sticks her head in her pouch and begins cleaning that wax off.”

Once the baby is in the pouch it latches on to a teat and stays all safe and snuggled inside for the next six months. During this time, the joey grows and begins moving around. Sometimes it’s during this pouch-only phase of growth that zoo keepers can confirm birth. After about six months a little foot or tail finds its way out, and everyone knows there’s a baby on board.

Zoo keepers wait for the opportunity to confirm a new joey, but it can take time. “The first sighting of a toe or the tip of a tail or nose is an exciting moment. Joey watch requires a lot of patience!” says Powers.

Eventually the joey will leave the pouch for short periods of time. As it grows stronger and gains independence it leaves the pouch for longer durations and begins hopping like the adult kangaroos. But for the first half year of life, a joey’s entire world is a safe, snug little nursery attached to mom.

Animal babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

joey in kangaroo pouch

Our Hoppy Mob has a New ‘Roo

Our kangaroo mob just got a little bigger.  A new joey was born late last year and began venturing out just in time for the 2015 zoo season.

Kangaroos are marsupials with an average gestation period of only 34 days.  Babies are very small when born (about the size of a jelly bean) and still have a lot of developing to do before they can safely move about on their own.  On their first day of life they crawl across their mother’s fur and into the pouch.  This fragile moment is rarely observed and although the newest joey was born some time last year he hadn’t been observed outside of the pouch until recently.

Joeys often hop into their mothers’ pouches head-first, and may wait awhile before they somersault upright.  Because of this, guests are likely to observe the baby’s feet sticking straight up out of the pouch!

Zoo guests can visit the kangaroo mob in the New Australian Adventure.  Mom and joey are usually out on exhibit and zoo staff and volunteers are often available for question and answer sessions.

Zoo babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

kangaroo zoo attraction

Get the Scoop on Australia

We’re building a new Australian Adventure!  Phase I is already underway and includes a new Ice Cream Shoppe, expanded seating for the Outpost Grille, new restroom facilities, and a new entrance near the train station.  Oh, and speaking of the train, crews are installing a new grade-level train crossing complete with authentic railroad crossing gates.

ice cream zoo attraction

Construction professionals put the finishing touches on the new Ice Cream Shoppe

 Buy Recognition Tile Button

The Australian Adventure first opened in 1987, funded entirely with donations.  The new Australian Adventure will be built with donations as well.  Construction for Phase I of this $7 million project is well underway, and we’ve already raised more than $5 million toward our goal.  You can help by purchasing an engraved Recognition Tile with your contribution of $400.  Contributions of $1000 or more will also be recognized on a permanent aluminum plaque.

Your Recognition Tile will be part of a one-of-a-kind sculptural display near new Australian Adventure entrance.  We’ll engrave your tile with your family name, the names of your children or grandchildren, or in memory of a loved one.   

What will Phases II and III have in store?  Plenty!  Here’s a condensed version of the plans:

Welcome to Stingray Bay

See eye to eye with gentle stingrays as they glide across a shallow pool in a brand-new exhibit that’s sure to be a highlight of the new Australian Adventure.  Housed in the former Australia After Dark building, Stingray Bay features up-close viewing opportunities and state-of-the-art life support systems.  A limited number of guests will have the chance to touch the stingrays under the guidance of zoo staff – a truly amazing experience!

Splash in Crocodile Creek

Go ahead – kick off your shoes and wade into Crocodile Creek!  Like a cool oasis in the Australian Outback, Crocodile Creek beckons with clear water and large boulders.  Kids wade in the shallow water, building dams with small rocks or making tiny rafts from sticks.  Shaded benches await nearby for those who prefer to rest.

Dive in the Great Barrier Reef

From the Australian Adventure Plaza, stroll over to Stingray Bay or the completely remodeled Great Barrier Reef Aquarium, showcasing the diversity of the world’s largest coral reef system.

New themed displays and interactive elements enliven your experience among our ocean wonders.  Sharks, jellyfish, and tropical fish benefit from all-new life support and filtration systems designed to keep the salt water tanks crystal clear.

The Land of Birds

Cross the bridge into the Outback and experience the magic of Australia’s vast, desert interior.  Encounter a few of Australia’s 800 species of birds, including the strikingly-colored galah, also known as the rose-breasted cockatoo. Walk through a brand-new aviary teeming with cockatiels and magpies.  Brightly-colored rainbow lorikeets nibble on nectar, just like they would in the wild.

Nearby, four-foot-tall emus strut across their yard, showing off their shaggy gray feathers.  In the background, you hear the distinct call of a flock of kookaburras.  Hoo-oo-oo-oo-ah-ah-ah!

Meet the Reptiles

Have you ever encountered a shingle-backed skink?  How about a spotted python?  These and other Australian reptiles greet you in the renovated Australian Adventure.  Stop by the tin-roofed hut and get nose-to-nose with these scaly creatures.

Meet the Mob

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo was among the first to unveil a walk-through kangaroo experience when the Australian Adventure first opened in 1987.  This one-of-a-kind journey continues as you stroll among our mob of eastern grey kangaroos, which is one of the largest in any North American zoo.  Watch for ‘roos hopping across the path in front of you! 

Say G’Day to the Dingoes

As Australia’s top predator, dingoes have been persecuted and hunted for bounty.  The zoo’s dingo pack is among the largest in the country. On cool summer mornings, watch as the energetic dingoes explore their exhibit bordering the Outback Adventure River Ride.

Float on the River Ride

You’ll be drawn to a relaxing float on the Outback Adventure River Ride.  Already the most popular ride in the zoo, exciting improvements will make the ride even better.  Authentic Outback details – as well as a few surprises – bring out the explorer in you!  Like all zoo rides, the Outback Adventure River Ride generates important income to support your non-profit zoo.

Click on the images to enlarge:

kangaroo

Hoppy…er, Happy Birthday, Kangaroo!

Mako the kangaroo got extra attention on his 12th birthday last week, and none of the 23 other eastern grey kangaroos in the mob were complaining. “He was more than willing to share his birthday treat,” said zoo keeper Marian Powers.

Mako got special treatment because he IS special: he’s the only adult male in the mob and has fathered 12 joeys here (with more possibly on the way). His birthday “cake” was a tasty combination of willow and ash branches, sprinkled with cottonwood and grape leaves.

“When we delivered the cake, Mako actually shied away from it,” says zoo keeper Kierra Klein. “We think he prefers to stay out of the spotlight.”

 

As dozens of zoo guests gathered to watch the birthday festivities, Mako stretched out and gave himself a good belly scratch while the female ‘roos and their joeys investigated – then devoured – the leafy cake.

 “Overall, Mako’s birthday celebration was pretty low-key, which fits with his relaxed personality,” says Powers. Perhaps more of us should follow Mako’s example of how to spend the perfect birthday: After nibbling on his cake, he lounged by the pool (actually the small pond in the Kangaroo Walkabout) for the rest of the day.  Hoppy Birthday, Mako!

Learn more about eastern grey kangaroos.