With only 2,000 individuals left in the wild, Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroos are extremely rare. So when a female at an Australian zoo welcomed a joey, all eyes were on her pouch. After a six-month wait, the baby finally peeked out. And the miraculous moment was caught on camera.
Healesville Sanctuary is a zoo located in Victoria, Australia. The facility specializes in breeding the country’s native species and is home to a range of creatures including kangaroos, wallabies, dingoes and wombats.
However, some of the animals at Healesville Sanctuary are less well known. For instance, the zoo actively breeds the endangered helmeted honeyeater. The bird is so rare that you can only find it in the wild in the state of Victoria.
Another uncommon Healesville resident is the Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo. Named after Walter Goodfellow – a British zoological collector – the animals are native to the island of New Guinea. However, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), they are an endangered species.
According to the species’ entry on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo population has halved in size in the past three generations. Its threats include hunting and habitat loss. Consequently, only 2,000 wild ones survive.
As a result, Zoos Victoria – the organization that owns Healesville Sanctuary – is working hard to save the Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo. To do so, it has partnered with organizations in America, Australia and Papua New Guinea to combat the challenges facing the species.
One of Healesville’s Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo inhabitants is a female named Mani. She arrived at the sanctuary in 2015 from Canberra’s National Zoo and Aquarium. And despite her reserved demeanor, her smiley face soon cemented her status as a favorite among staff.
So then, we can only imagine Healesville workers’ delight when in 2018 they discovered the kangaroo was carrying a tiny, jellybean-sized joey. Two years earlier, Mani had been paired with male Bagam, and it appeared their breeding attempts had finally paid off.
The happy news of Mani’s baby’s arrival was particularly special for those at Healesville Sanctuary. That’s because it was the first Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo to be born at the zoo. However, they would have to wait a while before getting their first proper view of the joey.
Kangaroo joeys are born blind and hairless and are less than an inch in size. After climbing through their mothers’ fur, they arrive in the pouch, where they begin feeding at a teat. There they grow rapidly and do not emerge for some weeks.
So-called “pouch life” for kangaroo joeys varies from species to species. On average, the timescale is about 190 days. However, some tree-kangaroos have particularly long development periods and can spend up to 275 days in the pouch.
For the little joey at Healesville Sanctuary, it was a long six months before it finally popped its head out of its mom’s pouch. And fortunately for us, the amazing moment was caught on camera for the whole world to enjoy.
In the footage, we can see Mani foraging in the treetops before the camera focuses on her tummy. Straight away, it’s clear to see that there is some movement in her pouch. Then all of a sudden, a little nose pokes its way out of the opening.
After the joey’s first glimpse of sunlight, it retreats back into the safety of its pouch. But it doesn’t stay hidden for long. After a little while, the baby emerges once more, and this time it shows off its entire face to the world.
As far as we can tell from the video, the little joey has sleek brown fur and adorable doe eyes. Furthermore, it appears to boast an inquisitive nature, as it continues to peep out of its pouch, carefully surveying the world around it.
The emergence of the joey from its mom’s pouch was significant in terms of its development. Consequently, the folk at Healesville Sanctuary shared the video of the special moment widely. They also released a press release announcing the news.
In the press release, a Healesville Sanctuary spokesperson wrote, “Over the coming months, the youngster will continue to venture out of the pouch more and more. It will become more independent as it learns from mum and dad.”
Unlike their ground-dwelling cousins, true to their name, tree-kangaroos live among the canopies. And since they are adapted to this kind of lifestyle, they are actually quite clumsy at floor level. So the joey at Healesville would have to hone his climbing skills.
For the time being though, the joey was perfectly at home in his mom’s pouch. And people online couldn’t enough of its cuteness. The post announcing the little one’s first appearance on Facebook went on to achieve 1,500 likes and reactions.
Furthermore, some users felt compelled to leave their gushing comments below the adorable images of the joey. “Emergency trip to the sanctuary needed,” Meri Day enthused. “This is the best thing born at the zoo since baby red pandas!”