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Dancing with ‘Roos

dancing roos

The ACT parks department is shedding blood in our regional backyard at Googong reserve and in Canberra parks – killing “protected” wildlife for the ninth year in a row.

In the following story, our south-coast correspondent provides a timely reminder that many Australian citizens here and on the coast take a very different view to living with wildlife including kangaroos: they share their paddocks, provide shelter, rescue and protection – even provide a winter feed!

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THE FIRST WHITE people weren’t “dancing with roos”, but they were thrilled by the kangaroos’ marvellous powers of locomotion. Captain Cook, after attempting to describe them in his journal wrote they had “no of sort of resemblance to any European animal I ever saw”. His amazement and awe is still felt by people who live here, and by modern day visitors to Australia.

On the South Coast we are fortunate to see kangaroos close-up in areas where some of their native habitat hasn’t yet been destroyed by loggers and developers. There are some places where the ‘roos actually come into backyards and reserves and even onto beaches, especially at dawn and dusk, and at times when food is scarce in nearby bushland.

As natural habitat has been taken over by human development we should be able to co-exist with these animals if we have a rural or semi-rural block of land. Indeed many people in Palerang and Queanbeyan share properties with kangaroos and wallabies seeking shelter from guns and persecution or who have lost their habitat to new housing and roads.

What it takes to rescue a joey

Joeys that have lost their mothers because of fire, road kill, or guns, may be reared successfully, but it’s not easy and is generally best left to the experts such as Wildcare in the Queanbeyan/Palerang region.

The key requirements summed up by Fauna Rescue SA are: Warmth, Quiet and Fluids.

  • An orphaned joey must be given a pouch or something warm to cuddle into and be kept at a constant temperature 28–30 degrees using an animal heat pad, or failing that a covered water bottle in the bag.
  • The joey is easily stressed and should be kept in a quiet place and away from children and animals.
  • They need to be bottle fed with special formula such as Wombaroo every 3–4 hours. (Kangaroos are allergic to the lactose in cows’ milk.)
  • Joeys require constant care and need to be near you at all times while they are very small, and when they leave the pouch to venture outside on the grass.
  • They need to be toileted regularly. (This is done by wiping a damp cloth across the cloaca which will stimulate the joey to defecate or urinate.)
  • Bottles and bedding must be scrupulously clean to prevent infection.
swamp wallaby
Swamp Wallaby in enclosure. Image: Beris Jenkins

Raising joeys to be strong independent kangaroos or wallabies is a long term commitment but one which is immensely satisfying for some residents.

Beris Jenkins has a five-acre block near Narooma, and is a qualified carer entrusted by WIRES with the privilege/task of raising joeys; sometimes nursing as many as six at a time, at various stages of development.

She believes it’s very important to seek advice, and to get a permit from the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage.

I asked: why do you sacrifice so much time, effort and expense to rearing baby kangaroos and wallabies Beris? She replied without hesitation, “Because I love nature and wildlife”.

When an adult kangaroo enters a yard because of hunger, thirst, or curiosity the nature lover treats it with respect. Although most kangaroos are docile, on very rare occasions people have been monstered by aggressive males who see them as a challenge.

The advice from the CSIRO is to let the animal know that you are not a threat by giving a short, deep cough, avoiding eye contact, and crouching down as you move away. (And hope the next door neighbour doesn’t laugh when he sees you.)

The old saying that ‘it’s more scared of you than you are of them’ holds true with all kangaroos. They are also wary of dogs and cats, and frightened by sudden movements and loud noises.

If you wish to share your yard with these unique and wonderful macropods you must protect them from dogs and cats; not be too garden proud; plant native vegetation and provide bowls of water.

Share some food

If you are kind enough to provide supplementary feed, avoid unhealthy and potentially life threatening food such as bread and other baked goods. Offer grass and hay (meadow or lucerne), or specific kangaroo pellets available from most stockfood outlets. Carrots and apples are special treats.

We owe thanks to those compassionate men and women who care.

Note: Bungendore Produce has ample supplies of meadow hay that can be enjoyed by both horses and kangaroos.

MAIN IMAGE: Dancing with Roos, Noi Snith.

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