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Willow the Bush Kangeroo (hopefully)

Wrapped in our towel


As we’ve already noted, there has been no shortage of kangeroo encounters in the last couple of weeks, they are quite literally hopping all over the place. Even Rolf Harris couldn’t tie all these Kangaroo’s down (sport). Yesterday though we had quite a special encounter. We decided to drive out to Mt Kaputar National Park and stay at a campsite near the peaks. Late in the afternoon we headed out on the minor road which led about twenty miles up to the hills, it was tarmac for about half the distance before turning to gravel. Just after we hit the gravel I spotted a dead kangaroo on the road up ahead. Quite a common site on the road side unfortunately. As we got alongside it we slowed down to see if it was actually dead as it was right in the road and as we approached we could see her pouch moving. We got out to have a closer look as it looked like it was only recently struck and also advice tells you to remove the body from the road as it creates a further traffic hazard. A nudge of its leg indicated that rigor mortis indeed had already set in. That little something in her pouch though was most definitely still alive, and wriggling in a distressed and desperate way. It seemed that whoever had hit and killed the mother hadn’t bothered to stop and have a look, or had and decided to let nature take its course. Being good old British animal lovers we had to do something as the poor little blighter was clearly facing a miserable end to its short life. Candice Marie took the mother by its cold dead hands and dragged it to the side of the road. As the mother lay over on her side we pulled open its pouch and saw a collection of long skinny limbs connected to a body and head resembling a small bald Chihuahua. Candice Marie grabbed hold of its legs and I got its tail and we pulled him out into world. He was that young that this was quite probably the first time he’d ever been out of his mother’s protective marsupian life support mechanism. It was all a bit tense and the pressure was on now we had this wriggling, distraught, but extremely endearing wild animal in our charge. What were we going to do with it? The town was nearly an hour away and everywhere would now be shut there anyway, so we decided to push on to the campsite in the hope that somebody there would know what to do and help us out. I have to say that the little thing was incredibly cute, and terribly vulnerable, small but perfectly formed, his head almost looking like a Disney cartoon animal with big black eyes and large vertically pointing ears. We had to do our best for this little joey, even if we ultimately couldn’t change his fate.

Shaking hands!

Candice Marie:

From the minute we saw this poor vulnerable pulsating creature we knew we had to try to keep it alive as best we could. The Dutch couple who sold us their car threw in a lot of additional camping paraphernalia, among which were 2 fleecy style towels. I whipped them, in hero-like fashion, from the back of the car to wrap up his delicate bony frame. He, or as we later learnt, she, only had a scant velvety covering of hair about the head and forelimbs and not much else on the rest of her scrawny little body. She was making panicked breathy cries from within the pouch that continued as we gently enclosed her in the fleecy folds of the Australian flag, Made in China (home of animal welfare). Her bleats subsided as I held her towards me to keep her shaking puny body warm. We continued up the rough road to the national park campsite as intended (quite high up and therefore chilly) hoping against hope that we might find someone there who might be able to advise us what best to do with an orphaned joey. This was one of the more wilderness campsites with no additional ranger services. Keith approached the only other camper who turned out to be an older man in a long dress, heels and bright red lipstick who was not much help. But then we accosted an Australian couple as they arrived and they managed to get through on the intermittent mobile phone system to a relative who could give us the number of WIRES (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service). The advice was to keep her warm and not give her anything to eat or drink apart from water and then take her to Narrabri veterinary hospital in the morning. We should keep her warm and would need to supply more than towels, ie additional heating of some kind as she wouldn’t be able to do it for herself. So I kept her cuddled on my lap in the front of the car while Keith prepared a pasta dinner, and boy, did it get cold up there. It was hard enough to keep yourself warm let alone a poor skinny hairless joey who’d just gone through the trauma of his mum being hit and killed on the road. We decided that night not to put up the tent as we would need a swift exit in the morning to take this fragile joey to the nearest kangaroo hospital, plus it was getting pretty dark anyway and to put up a tent pronto fashion is a skill not yet mastered.

We rapidly ate our dinner and fretted about the welfare of our gorgeous little joey. We had put her in a plastic emptied-out container lined with the velour flag towels but we realised as night drew on that the temperature was dropping rapidly and that towels alone would not suffice to keep her warm. So, we took her and her little nest of towels into our bed built into the back of the car. We nestled her under the duvet and prayed for sleep. Fat chance. I was afraid that we might fall asleep and roll over and crush little joey so kept awake and tried best to cradle that little frame into my body so she had enough body warmth to survive the cold night. And it was a long night. Even longer I’m sure for this endearing but compromised little creature who took fright every now again as evidenced by her frantic breathing. After a while she would crawl from her covers across the side of my body to gain a bit of warmth and comfort but as the hours wore on I realised the overpowering smell of roo poo would prove too much. At 5am I decided she had to go back into the plastic box with towels and covering and take her chances on the driver’s seat of the car. Keith protested that this course of action would kill her and that there was no serious stink. After a while it was agreed that roo could come back under the covers under the provision that she remain in the plastic box so the poo could be contained. Keith kept her on his side of the bed under the duvet, but in the plastic box (obviously lidless) until daybreak. Only a man of his diminished olfactory dimensions could have achieved this feat and I was glad he did as little joey survived the night.

Keith interjects…

I was aware of some slight smell but I also noticed that she was no longer moving in the box after a while. The telephone advice we’d had said that joeys need constant additional warmth and they would not survive without it, i.e. a replacement for the mothers body heat. After about twenty minutes under the duvet I noticed she had stopped moving altogether, when I reached in to feel her legs they were going cold. I then wrapped my fingers around her legs and held the back of my hand to her head. After another ten minutes or so she started moving again and was occasionally licking my hand. By now it was about 5:30 am, I kept my hand there passing on my own body heat and she kept moving around my hand until the sun came up. Candice Marie then took hold of her again while I had a wash and packed up the car ready for the roll down the hillside back into town, about an hours drive.

Candice Marie…

We took her haste post paste into Narrabri veterinary hospital. Little joey or Willow, as we decided in the morning his/her name would be, had taken a hold on my emotions and as I blubbed at the time of her discovery, I blubbed again as we approached the hospital. What if she doesn’t make it, I lamented. Poor little innocent soul. Life’s not fair! Well, I tried not to blub as we took her in but the tears just welled up again as I tried to explain what had happened. I’m sure the receptionist was thinking “silly sentimental tourist” or something along those lines as all dignity evaporated. And, let’s face it, tiredness didn’t help. A lovely lady who came along and appeared more “in charge” explained this and that and as much as I was interested and wanted to know more I was too choked to engage further. The joey was estimated to be a couple of months old and not to have yet left the pouch, so pretty vulnerable. Left alone, we are sure, its chances would have been nil. The kindly lady brought a joey bag to pop him in and told us that the local specialist member of WIRES would come and pick her up and look after her as best as could be. “Did we want to take a picture?”, she asked. Yes, I thought, but not looking like a blubbering wreck. “Oh yes!”, Keith piped up and I’m glad he did as below you can see a picture of an adorable joey and also, unfortunately, a distraught looking Candice Marie.

Candice Marie and Willow as we hand him over at the vets.

From the hospital Willow was picked up by the local Narrabri member of WIRES who fed and kept her warm and from there, we’ve learnt, she will go on to another lady who is already looking after another rescued joey a couple of months older. We’re told that she is feeding well and her chances of surviving are good as she had at least developed to the velvet stage. This is the stage where they start to grow their velvet coats after being bald since birth. Then they will go on to grow their proper coats which they need to keep them warm in the cold nights they have here. We were pleased to be told that she would be released into the wild at the same time as the other joey so at least they would have a little friend to hop about in the bush with. Well, I anthropomorphise a little but you see them travelling in groups which I assume to be family groups so as orphans I suppose their chances are higher if they’re not on their own. We wouldn’t like to think of her as  being an outcast and picked on. I don’t know what the sex of the other little joey is but I’m hoping it’s a boy so they could go on to be kangaroo man and wife and live happily ever after…

We have a short video as well, but will add that later as the internet connection is too slow currently.

Finally, here is a link to the Wires website,it has some good pictures:

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One Response to “Willow the Bush Kangeroo (hopefully)”

  1. Carolann says:

    Awwwww how cute….it brought a tear to my eye!! xxx

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