Orphaned Aussie tree kangaroo ready for move to Singapore Zoo

Makaia was dubbed a "miracle" after being adopted by a wallaby when his mother died suddenly.
PHOTO: Adelaide Zoo

The Singapore Zoo welcomes its newest resident next week - a "miracle" orphaned tree kangaroo from Australia.

Makaia, who was dubbed a "miracle" after being adopted by a wallaby when his mother died suddenly, received his final health checks today (June 27), said the Adelaide Zoo in a press release.

When Makaia arrives at his new home in Singapore next week, he will meet his new mate - a female Goodfellow's tree kangaroo from Sydney's Taronga Zoo. Keepers hope the pair will mate and start a family of their own.

Makaia was just seven weeks old when he was orphaned. In a world first for conservation, keepers and veterinarians at Adelaide Zoo saved Makaia's life by using a surrogate yellow-footed rock-wallaby mother - a technique never before attempted with a tree kangaroo.

'Cross-fostering', a special breeding technique that Adelaide Zoo pioneered in the 1990s, involves the transfer of endangered joeys to the pouch of a surrogate mother of a different wallaby species.

This accelerates the breeding cycle of the original wallaby, allowing the female to increase its reproduction rate up to six or eight times in some species. This has helped Adelaide Zoo to build the captive population of an endangered species much more quickly.

Makaia stayed with his wallaby mother for about three-and-a-half months until he became too big for her pouch. A keeper then looked after him, becoming his third "mum".

Dr Ian Smith, a senior veterinarian at Adelaide Zoo, says Makaia thrived under the care of his adoptive mothers and is now a happy and healthy maturing adult.

"We've had great success over the years cross-fostering between wallaby species, but the specialised breeding technique had never been used on a tree kangaroo before, so it was a huge achievement for the zoo," Dr Smith said.

"It's now time for him to start his next chapter and we're confident he's going to do really well," he added.

"He is extremely genetically valuable for the region and we are hopeful he will form an important part of the international breeding programme working to save this endangered species from extinction."

While happy to see Makaia grow into a healthy adult and start a new adventure in Singapore, his keepers in Adelaide will miss him.

"Of course we will be sad to see Makaia go, but we're incredibly proud of what we have achieved as a zoo and to have been able to give him a chance at a wonderful life where he can make a real difference to the conservation of his wild cousins," said Adelaide Zoo Natives team leader Gayl Males.

"He has earnt himself a special place in the hearts of the zoo's staff and visitors with his cheeky personality and amazing strength."

Goodfellow's tree kangaroos inhabit the rainforests of New Guinea.

A distant relative of the kangaroo and wallaby, the species lives in trees and rarely descends to the ground. Distinguishable by its striking back stripe, the Goodfellow's tree kangaroo is classified by the IUCN as endangered in the wild due to overhunting and loss of habitat.

xiuhuil@sph.com.sg

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