Jumping around with the joeys

Gympie Travel Blog

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Introducing Jaffa boy!

So, the farmstay we were most excited about had arrived!

We caught the bus from Southport to Gympie (no comments please!). It was a fairly long way, we got on at 9.50am and arrived at 6pm. We were excited about this farm stay as it was a lady who rescues and rears kangaroo & wallaby joeys. She then releases them onto the 300 acres of land which she owns.

Anne Marie met us at the bus station as her place was a 45 minute drive for Gympie. She had brought along her dog Maeve, a Chiauhua/Papion mix. We chatted on the journey back, all polite chit chat to try and gain the measure of each other and by the time we arrived we had established that we would get on fine. It turns out that Anne-Marie had just had two American girls stay that had been rubbish, they got drunk every night, played loud music, didnt do any work and left dirty plates everywhere so it was understandable that she was slighlty wary about taking in another two girls.

My bodyguards

We arrived back at her house at 7pm and had dinner. Anne Marie is a vegetarian who is trying hard to be vegan so we didnt have to worry about my 'dietary peculiarities'. After dinner came the highlight of the day, being introduced to the 6 joeys she currently has in care. There are two reds and four Eastern greys. They are between the ages of ten months and a year. They are being bottle fed four times a day on a very specific lactose free formula. The joeys spend the night in a small pen in Anne Marie's back garden. She has built a wood shelter which houses their 'pouches'. Joeys at this age would still be spending some time inside their mothers pouch, coming out during the day to explore their surroundings so Anne Marie has made replica pouches out of cloth which hang from poles.

The four smaller joeys love their pouches, with one little guy, Jaffa, going straight back to bed as soon as bottle time was over.

Once bottles were done all the joeys were put to bed, with each getting enough grass placed outside their pouch to last them all night. We were then shown how to wash the bottles and teats properly, anything less than perfect could cause the joeys to get sick. After that we headed for bed, it was only a little past 9pm but first feed in the mornings is 5.30am so we thought it best to retire early. It was actually easier than we thought to get up at such an inhuman hour, the sun was already up and it was nice and warm. We dragged ourselves downstairs at 5am and got some breakfast so that we were ready to go at half past.

Earl and Jaffa chat
Anne Marie appeared at dead on half past and got the bottles ready (just like you would for a baby) and we headed out to greet the kids. They were already up and eager for their bottles, their little hands reaching out and holding ours steady while they drank. It was such an amazing feeling.

After breakfast Anne Marie takes the joeys down to the big pen, a two acre fenced in area where they spend the day. Each morning she spends an hour in the big pen wth them so that they can graze. Because the four smaller joeys would still be with their mother, ready to bolt back into her pouch at the first sign of danger, they wont spend any time outside unless she is with them. Kangaroos are such an unique animal, their physiology is unlike anything else in the world (of course I include wallabies in this category) and the name for the group is called Macropods.

The kids hang out
The word Macropod means 'big toe', and it sure is correct! Macropods have one huge toe, with two smaller 'grooming toes' on one side and a single small toe on the other. They have incredably powerful hind legs, being more economically efficient on two legs than any animal on four. Their front legs in comparison look rather spindly, but have huge claws for grooming and digging in the earth.

After Anne Marie had settled the joeys into their pouches for the morning we came back up to the house and got down to work. Our tasks for the day were, Rachel to cook lunch and dinner while I helped Anne Marie sort out some boxes in the upstairs storage room. It was pretty easy work, Rachel made a gorgeous lentil and bean soup for lunch and we got to feed the joeys again at 11am.

Willow inspects my work
As we worked we got to know Anne Marie a bit better. She has been rescuing animals for 6 years, she has been living at this house for 3 years, she moved as she wanted a large property with somewhere she could release the animals she raised, before she was on 35 acres and mainly looked after possums and small animals as she would have to pass on any macropods to another carer where they got to a certain size. Throughout the day, anywhere we looked around the house we could see kangaroos and wallabies just wandering around. As Anne Marie has been releasing animals for a couple of years now she has adults she raised coming back with their babies.

Over the next few days we did various jobs around the place, cleaning out the pantry & cupboards, clearing creeper from the carport, weeding the flower beds, redigging the earth steps leading down to the big pen, spread compost on the fruit trees, and lots of baking (I even made a vegan cake!).

Iz in your foto, ruining your picture
We accompanied Anne Marie on every bottle feed, gradually getting to know each of the joeys, and letting them get used to us. It took us a while to be able to tell them apart but we started noticing differences in them, physically and personality wise. Pearl and Earl, the two Reds were distinctive because of their colouring, and Pearl had a stumpy tail. Their mums were victims of road accidents, birds of prey had tried to drag Pearl out of her mothers pouch by her tail before she was rescued. They were found by two sisters who were travelling in a camper van. They first wanted to keep them as 'pets' (not so practical when you think a full grown male can reach 7 foot) but reluctantly gave them up to Anne when they started to get sick. Anne didnt realise they were Reds, the women told her they were Eastern greys when she agreed to take them, as she will not be able to release them on her property.
Jaffa sucks his fingers like a baby would suck it's thumb
Reds are not native to this area so will have to be taken back to a suitable location. Kangaroos are very stress prone animals, any stress (like a long journey or lots of noise) can send them into illness and even kill them.

We had most difficulty telling the difference between the four greys. Willow, the only girl of the four is the biggest, but that only useful if shes standing next to the other three. Jarrah is close friends with Willow and can always be found next to her. Jaffa is always first back into bed and has a very cute habit of sucking on his fingers, just like a baby sucks it's thumb. Hugo, the smallest of the group, has softer fur, and a very elfin like face. Needless to say we developed favourites, Rachel's was Jaffa and mine was Hugo, but we adored them all.

Pearl and Earl were very sooky (needy) and no one but Anne would do for them. Willow and Jarrah were quite independent as they stayed in the big pen over night and were the only ones that didnt go in pouches any more.

Each night, at the 8pm feeding the shelter in both pens needed to be inspected for snakes. Little poisonous ones werent a real threat as they would only bite if accidently trod on, it was pythons that were the real threat. Anne said that two weeks ago she removed a python that was close to 8 foot long, single handedly, from the shelter!! She bundled it into a sack and took it for a drive, releasing it a long way from the house so it wouldnt find its way back. A python like that would make an easy meal out of a joey as they would be helpless in their pouch.

Pearl and Earl, the two Reds
Goannas are also a problem, a large goanna will take a joey no problem. We found one in the small pen (thankfuly the joeys were in the big pen at the time) and did try to catch it but it was too quick and managed to bolt out into the bush. We heard it later in the day as it was trying to catch a bird.

During our afternoons we relaxed by reading, Anne lent me a book she thought I would be interested in called Kangaroos: myths and realities. It was interesting reading alright, not all enjoyable. It listed the sorry state of affairs the mighty kangaroo, national symbol of Australia and loved icon to the world, finds itself in. Despite the fact that the kangaroo is a 'protected' species it is deemed a pest. The government has licenced shooters to kill millons each year, stating that its 'to protect crops' and 'the culling is for the kangaroos own good'.

Cuddle time!
Culling is by definition to 'weed out the infirm, sick and undersize' but this isnt what is happening. Shooters are targeting the biggest males as they will provide the most meat and hide to sell. This is allowing weaker, smaller males to mate, thus diluting the gene pool. Shooters also target large females. A brief overview of female kangaroos breeding cycle: A joey will stay with its mother, completely dependant on her, for almost a full year. when it is an 'out of pouch' joey (no longer allowed into pouch at any time) it will still continue to feed from her as it cannot survive on grass alone. At this time she will also be nursing an 'in pouch' joey, so will have two babies on the go at the same time. The 'humane way' to dispose of the in pouch joey is to decapitate it or bash its head in, very humane huh.
Fern does her Johnny Wilkinson impression
Oh, and there is no regulations on how to deal with the out of pouch joey, it is simply left to starve. These babies are not in the 'quotas' so three deaths are counted as one.

There is also a growing consumer base for its meat and skin. A full grown kangaroo will provide around 6kg of useable meat, this is in comparison to 200kg a single cow produces. It would also take 5-6 years for that kangaroo to reach full size, compared to the 1-2 years for a cow. The meat industry is trying to sell kangaroo meat as a 'healthy and sustainable' alternative to livestock produce. The flaws in this are: 1, it would take the entire population of 'roos in Australia several times over to equal the amount of livestock eaten each year. 2, 'roos are shot and butchered in the bush, there is no quality controls as it is classed as game meat (ie eat it at your own risk.

Digging steps
3, Because they are so prone to stress it is not possible to farm them in any way. 4, 'roo populations grow by 6-8% each year (in a good year, not counting drought, bush fires etc), quotas are set at 21%+ no matter what the climate is doing.

Kangaroos icons are everywhere here, they are on flags, names of rugby teams, pubs, and they are on the state seal. Yet the general opinion is 'its just a bloody 'roo'.

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Introducing Jaffa boy!
Introducing Jaffa boy!
My bodyguards
My bodyguards
Earl and Jaffa chat
Earl and Jaffa chat
The kids hang out
The kids hang out
Willow inspects my work
Willow inspects my work
Iz in your foto, ruining your pict…
Iz in your foto, ruining your pic…
Jaffa sucks his fingers like a bab…
Jaffa sucks his fingers like a ba…
Pearl and Earl, the two Reds
Pearl and Earl, the two Reds
Cuddle time!
Cuddle time!
Fern does her Johnny Wilkinson imp…
Fern does her Johnny Wilkinson im…
Digging steps
Digging steps
Gympie
photo by: LMTaylor