‘World first’ endangered tree kangaroo is a Dad!

Back in 2015, Adelaide Zoo was involved in a world first – the use of a surrogate wallaby mother to raise a five-week-old orphaned Goodfellow’s Tree-kangaroo. The only chance of survival for the little joey, named Makaia, was to try to ‘cross-foster’ the joey into the pouch of a wallaby surrogate mother.

Some five years later and now Makaia, who moved to Singapore Zoo in 2016 as part of a Global Species Management Plan (GSMP), has become a father meaning there is one more of the endangered species in the world.

Speaking about the new arrival, Mark Smith, Curator at Adelaide Zoo said: “We are delighted to learn that Makaia has gone on to become a father.”

“The population of the Goodfellow’s Tree-kangaroo is decreasing through hunting, trapping and loss of its local habitat in New Guinea.

“Cross-fostering is a technique that Adelaide Zoo began pioneering in the 1990s and involves the transfer of endangered joeys to the pouch of a surrogate mother of a different wallaby species.

“Although Zoos SA had success with cross-fostering wallaby species the technique had never been used on a tree kangaroo.

“Tree kangaroos are distant relatives of wallabies but they have many behavioural and physical differences. We had no idea if the Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby would accept the tree kangaroo joey, but if we wanted to save the joey we had to try our luck. Fortunately it worked. Huge congratulations to Makaia and everyone at Singapore Zoo,” finished Mark.

Singapore Zoo reports that the course of true love between Makaia and Nupela took some time to warm up before sparks flew with the resulting male joey born on 4 February this year.

Tree kangaroos are born in an almost embryonic state after a gestation of about 40 days. The jellybean-sized newborn then has to crawl into the mother’s pouch to develop further.  The joey will emerge from the pouch around 8-months-old and take its first tentative steps to explore its surroundings.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Life Sciences Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said: “In these uncertain times, the birth of this Goodfellow’s Tree-kangaroo is certainly a ray of light for the Global Species Management Plan. Such programmes enable zoos the world over to breed threatened species in a scientific and coordinated manner to achieve demographic and genetic sustainability. Together with conservation efforts in the animals’ natural habitats, these breeding programmes help to ensure the survival of the species.”

Adelaide Zoo reopened on 22 June 2020. Due to current COVID-19 restrictions all members and visitors are asked to purchase tickets online before visiting: http://www.adelaidezoo.com.au/tickets/

The book Makaia’s Story – A tale of three mothers by Gayl Males can be purchased here

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About Zoos SA

Zoos SA is a not-for-profit conservation charity that exists to connect people with nature and save species from extinction.

Zoos SA acknowledges the Country on which we stand always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land and we pay our deepest respect and gratitude to Kaurna (Adelaide Zoo) and Ngarrindjeri (Monarto Safari Park) Elders, past, present and emerging.

We undertake critical conservation work throughout Australia and acknowledge the traditional custodians of these lands.


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