Manual for handrearing a kangaroo or wallaby

Read the book Macropod Husbandry, Healthcare & Medicinals, from Lynda Staker at  Google Books. She is an expert on kangaroos and wallaby's and has written a comprehensive manual. The chapters about handrearing are more that 200 pages long, and contains everything you need to know about everything.

Wombaroo and Biolac kangaroo milk is often stopped and seized by European customs. This means we can not get these brands of kangaroo formula.

 It is important that a milk replacer for kangaroos and wallabies contains as little lactose as possible. For some time we worked with a combination of FoxValley 30/50 and dextrose. That approached the mother's milk, and works reasonably well, but turned out not to be perfect.

Luckily there is now Gunyah milk powder

From the passion for kangaroos and wallabies, Gunyah has developed special feed and milk powder in collaboration with scientists and nutritionists. Gunyah's complete milk formula contains less than 0.7% lactose and is therefore 100% reliable for even the smallest joey.

This manual is regularly updated with new tips and infomation.
Wallabies and kangaroos should be given about 10% of their body weight in milk each day. More information in the feeding schedule, below.

If you have any questions, please contact me via the contact form at the bottom of this page.

Gunyah kangaroo formula in 3 varieties

The Gunyah kangaroo formula comes in 3 different varieties: phase A, phase B and phase C.
It is developed and manufactured in the Netherlands.

Gunyah milk replacers contain an extremely low lactose content specifically intended for motherless animals. the extremely low lactose content of less than 0.7% is vitally important to give these already very vulnerable young animals a fair chance of survival. A too high lactose content can lead to serious gastrointestinal complaints in joey's, which is often fatal. In addition, too much lactose in young kangaroos will lead to cloudiness of the lens resulting in blindness.

Gunyah kangaroo milk replacer: consists of three different gradations

The composition of kangaroo milk changes as the young grows and develops. With the three different compositions of the Gunyah milk powders this is imitated and approaches nature as best as possible.

The standard example of the feeding schedule relates to the most common kangaroo species, the Bennett's wallaby. For other, smaller or larger species, one can initially assume a dietary allowance of 10 to 15% of the body weight per day. Specific dietary lists of other kangaroo species are available on request.

Phase A:

Intended for the youngest animals weighing from 170 grams up to and including 600 grams.

39% protein, 20% fat, 34% carbohydrates, 0% fibre, lactose < 0.7%.

Fill 16 grams of milk powder with cold water up to 100 ml.

Phase B:

Intended for the joey's with a weight around 600 grams up to and including 1300 grams.

37% protein, 30% fat, 24% carbohydrates, 0% fiber, Lactose < 0.7%.

Phase C:

Intended for the joey's that also eat solid foods,  from about 1100 grams up to the moment of independence.
We recommend to feed Gunyah pellets in combination with Phase C formula.

35% protein, 40% fat, 14% carbohydrates, 0% fiber, Lactose <0.7%.

Gradual transition

Is joey in between two phases of weight? For example, does your joey weigh 1100 grams? Then you mix B with C until the joey weighs 1300 grams.
The packaging shows exactly which ratio you need to use.

Joey First Aid kit:

Always be well prepared for emergencies.  Gunyah has put together a special package so that you'll always have a reliable joey milk an hand.

This First Aid kit contains a small emergency supply of milk replacer to get you through the first few days.
Of each grade, there is enough powder to make about  400/500ml of milk. This is on average sufficient for a week. You will have sufficient time for ordering and delivery of the required milk formula.

Content Joey Kit

  • 100ml bottle
  • STM kangaroo teat
  • 100 grams milk powder phase A
  • 100 grams milk powder phase B
  • 100 grams milk powder phase C
  • 1 ml syringe
  • Package leaflet manual, milk feeding schedule, care joey and other useful tips and tricks.

 

Other feeding supplies

 

Colostrum Therapy

Colostrum (also known as beestings or first milk) is essential to the health of a young kangaroo. Wombaroo Impact is often used in Australia. In Europe we use Colostrum Therapy for kangaroos. Colostrum stimulates a healty tymus and helps the immune system.

Electrolyte solution ORS

Electrolytes are commonly found in mother’s milk for kangaroos, expecially so with hairless joeys. Electrolyte powder can be bought at the pharmacy, it's often named ORS. There is also an electrolyte powder especially for animals, called Rehydration.

Following the instructions on the package, mix the electrolytes with water. To start, only give the animal electrolytes for the first 24 hours. Later, you can mix the milk with electrolyte-solution in stead of water.

Teats

Kangaroos have very long nipples. Wombaroo has specially designed teats which mimic this. These Wombaroo teats are available in our webshop.

All these supplies are available in the webshop: shop.melkvoordieren.nl

Send me an email for more information. At the bottom of this page is a contact form.

 

How to prepare Gunyah kangaroo milk

Almost all milk powders for animals work with 'parts' and measuring scoops. The Gunyah kangaroo milk is different.

Step 1: Measure the powder

The mixing ratio is indicated on the packaging of the milk. For example, fill 16 grams of milk powder with cold water up to 100 ml.
You take a measuring cup and put it on an accurate scale. Then you put 16 grams of milk powder in the measuring cup.

Step 2: add water

Then add cold water until you have 100 ml of milk. Just stir and you're done.

Step 3: Leave it in the fridge

You may give the milk to your kangaroo immediately, but it is better to leave it in the fridge for at least 4 hours. This way the powder has time to absorb all the water. This makes the milk easier to digest and you have fewer problems such as diarrhoea in young animals.
The prepared milk can be kept in the refrigerator for 48 hours. (Do not freeze!)

You can easily make several portions and keep them in a syringe. The syringes can be closed with a cap, so that the milk is sealed airtight. Use 10ml syringes, because the Wombaroo teats fit well over them.

Step 4: warming up au-bain-marie

Before feeding, warm the milk au-bain-marie to body temperature. Once you've stored the milk in a syringe, you can easily put the syringe in a bowl of hot water so it heats up. Measure the temperature of the water. As the water cools down, the milk wil warm up. When the water reaches 37 degrees, you may assume the formula is also 37 degrees.

You can also use a bottle warmer for babies.
Do not use a microwave to heat the milk. In such small quantities, the milk will boil quickly and the proteins will disintegrate.

Feeding schedule

The packaging of the Gunyah milk says exactly how much you have to give.

Extra information about Gunyah

From the passion for kangaroos, Gunyah has developed special feeds (pellets and milk replacers for motherless animals), in collaboration with scientists and nutritionists, specifically for these unique species.
From the great need to have the right food for the kangaroos kept by Gunyah, including full insight and control over the content, raw materials and composition of the pre-mix, the self-producing of feeds originated.

The high demands and exclusive wishes of Gunyah had no other outcome than to take control of the production. By our own animals, namely nine different kangaroo species, the products are continuously monitored to the highest standards that we set ourselves. The quality of Gunyah products has not gone unnoticed and now has many very satisfied customers within Europe, both hobbyists and (EAZA) zoos. Countries where we supply products to date: The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Germany, Poland, Estonia, Austria and the Czech Republic.

 

Temperature/ breathing / heart rythm / temperature of the surroundings

Digital thermometer

Young kangaroos are incapable of regulating their body temperature. They are fully dependent on their mother for this.
A young kangaroo without fur requires a temperature inside the pouch of between 31 and 34 degrees celcius. Thin fur allows a temperature of 30 degrees celcius, and a thicker fur allows 28 degrees celcius.

Measure the temperature of the animals surroundings. A digital termomether with and air temperature sensor is ideal. Place the sensor inside the pouch so you can monitor the pouch temperature at any moment.

Body temperature

A normal body temperature for a young kangaroo ranges from 35.5 to 37.0 degrees celcius. Body temperature is most easily measured with a regular thermometer for humans. Coat the tip with some vaseline and insert it carefully into the animals anus. This is the only way to accurately measure the kangaroo’s temperature.

Breath

A normal rythm of breathing for a kangaroo is between 20 and 40 breaths per minute. Smaller breeds have a faster rythm.

Heart rythm

An adult, big kangaroo (m. Rufa) in rest has a heart rythm of 40 beats per minute. Smaller breeds and young animals have a heartbeat of 70 to 200 beats per minute.

Surrogate pouch for young kangaroos

Young kangaroos can experience a great deal of stress if they are not kept inside a pouch. Moreover, they will lose body heat and precious energy quickly if they are allowed to walk around too early.
Young kangaroos prefer to sit in a hanging surrogate pouch with their hind legs folded over their head.

A surrogate pouch is best made from natural materials. An old t-shirt can be used for the inner lining. A flannel pillowcase is often used. However, this material can begin to pill (form small balls of fuzz), which can get in the animals nose and restrict its breathing.

The best material for the inner lining is a t-shirt. Sew the openings for arms and head shut. A wool sweater placed over the shirt (on the outside) provides warmth and isolation. Outside of the sweater, you can place an electric heatpad, hot water bottle or Snugglesafe heatpad. Finally, place the whole bundle inside a bag or backpack made of a material that allows air flow.

Beating heart

A Snuggle Pet beating heart is also a useful addition to your surrogate pouch. This little device produces a tactile heartbeat much like the one in the mothers pouch, calming the young kangaroo.


Electric footwarmer

Another useful solution is an electric footwarmer bag, with a pillowcase inside. Monitor the temperature in the puch constantly. An elctric footwarmer will usually have multiple settings. Try to keep the temperature at 28 to 34 degrees celcius, depending on the amount of fur the animal has. If the animal is very small, and has a lot of room in the surrogate pouch, you can fill the excess room with a towel. Too much room in the pouch will result in loss of warmth.

The animal should not be standing in the pouch, but lie in it in a rolled up position, with its hind feet above its head.

Hang the surrogate pouch in a quiet place and leave the animal in peace in between feeds. Especially at first, kangaroos are easily stressed out.

Check the inner lining of the pouch regularly. The animals fragile toes and fingers can easily become tangled in loose threads. This will lessen blood circulation and could lead to the loss of a finger or toe. The animal could also try to eat the fluffy lining, leading to bowel problems.

Make sure you have multiple clean t-shirts for the inner lining. Change them at least once a day and wash them at a minimum of 60 degrees celcius.

When the animal is old enough to leave the pouch, place the pouch in a (dog)bench or other enclosure, allowing the joey to safely leave and return to the pouch.

Carrying your kangaroo

Many people like to carry their young kangaroo around. This can be a very pleasant experience for the animal. In effect, you become a surrogate mother, with your warmth, heart beat and movement setting the animal at ease.

The best way to do this, is to make a surrogate pouch from a sleeveless shirt. You wear this under a wide sweater or buttoned shirt, allowing the animal to peek out through your collar. See the image below.

Skin care

Very young kangaroos with very little or no fur can often develop a dry skin. In nature, the humidity in the mothers pouch is combined with a low percentage of oxygen. The skin and fur of the mother also contains a substance protecting the joey’s skin.

When hand-rearing kangaroos, you should regularly apply skin-cream to the animal. Preferably a type of skin cream without perfumes or additives. Baby oil can also be used, but a cream is better.

A dry skin can also be a sign of dehydration. Using an electrolyte solution or an intravenous drip (get this at the vet), give the animal extra fluids. Extremely dry skin can lead to clotting of the skin around the tail or toes. This could lead to loss of blood circulation, and the clots should be partly removed.

Changing to solid food / weaning

As soon as the young kangaroo is getting somewhat furry and sticks its head out of the pouch regularly, you can start offering it grass. A joey in its mother’s pouch wil normally eat grass when its mother bends over to eat grass herself.

Feed the animal grass with the roots and some dirt still attached. Preferably taken from a field where adult kangaroos live. It will contain important substances for the animals immune system, as well as special bacteria for its stomach and intestines. However, it is important to make sure the adult kangaroos are healthy and do not have worms.

At a later stage, you can offer the young animal hay and willow twigs, as well as small pieces of carrot and apple. It is best to first peel apples, as small parts of the skin may end up between the animal’s teeth, leading to dental infections.

Water

Like any animal, young kangaroos need water. At first, the water in the milk will be sufficient. But as soon as they regularly come out of the pouch, you should offer clean tapwater in a container. Make sure to refresh the water regularly.


Bringing the animal outside

As long as the young kangaroo does not travel outside of the pouch regularly, it is best to keep it inside. This will give it a stable temperature and provide quiet surroundings. Changes in the environment can be stressful for the animal.

As soon as the joey regularly sticks its head out of the pouch, it is old enough for short trips outside. Sunlight is good, but make sue the animal doesn’t get sunburned. Carry the joey close to your body.

As soon as the joey is old enough to be outside of the pouch continually, you can start to accustom it to the outside world. Start on a bright day with calm, pleasant weather. Just allow it to move around on a fenced in patch of grass, and do not leave the animal alone. It has to get used to the sights and sounds, and may easily panic. Start with a short timespan, and gradually build to longer times outside. In time, you can leave it outside during the day, and bring it inside at night. If that goes well, you can eventually leave the animal outside during the night, provided the weather is pleasant enough.

Special mammals from Australia

Kangaroos are marsupials that are in no way comparable to the common mammals in Europe. Kangaroos have their origins in distant Australia, located in the southern hemisphere, as the smallest continent and considered by some to be the largest island. The isolation of millions of years has created a unique flora and fauna.
Although the various species of kangaroos are scattered throughout almost the whole of Australia, almost all have an area of overlap in the east. It is not entirely coincidental that the very fertile soils are located in the eastern parts of Australia.
Kangaroos (Macropodidae) are a family of marsupials that occur in both Australia and New Guinea. The name Macropodidae means "grandpae", which refers to their enormous hind legs. These muscular hind legs enable the species to make big jumps. The female has a pouch, an extra skin fold with a sphincter at the top.

Kangaroos consist for more than 83% of muscles, so muscles are of great importance in their functioning.

Reproduction

The females take care of an average of 2 joeys at the same time, 1 young in and 1 young out of the pouch. The mother produces two different types of milk simultaneously. Each joey is given its own teat, the milk adapted to its age. For the young in the pouch, the mother's milk contains less fat and more protein. The animal that has left the pouch permanently remains dependent on the mother's milk for a period of at least 6 months.
Both the enormous muscle mass and the production of 2 different types of high quality breast milk simultaneously demand good nutrients to keep this optimal.
Kangaroo mortality in Australia

In Australia, 60 to 80% of joeys die before they reach adulthood. This is due to the increasing loss of their habitat, hunting by humans but also weather conditions have a major influence. During a prolonged period of drought and thus lack of good food, the mortality rate among the juveniles rises to as much as 100%.
There are also kangaroo species that are known to become infertile in the absence of finding the right food.

Natural food of kangaroos

They are generally both grazers and browsers they eat grass, leaves and twigs. Kangaroos are not ruminants and therefore do not have multiple stomachs. They do vomit a regular food. However, they swallow this green liquid porridge immediately, in this way they bring back certain important bacteria in the stomach, these microorganisms help to digest their food.
Marsupials are considered the most unique mammals on earth. It is therefore not surprising that also kangaroos require a specially adapted ration. According to Gunyah, a good diet with the right composition of vitamins, minerals and trace elements is not a luxury but even a necessity for an optimal condition of both adult and young animals.

Gunyah is of the opinion that in addition to good housing, especially a proper diet forms the basis for overall health in kangaroos. It helps the animals to be more resistant to negative external influences and thus to stay ahead of many unnecessary problems, it also increases the chance of good health and a faster recovery from injury.

Pellet Nutrition of Gunyah

Gunyah produces both responsible pellets and reliable milk replacers with the utmost care. Gunyah Elite Feeds stands for quality and will never compromise on price. This feed contains high quality raw materials which also visibly improves the condition and general appearance of the animals.

The Gunyah kangaroo pellets has four variants:

  • Premium / summer pellet
    This is the standard chunk that can actually be fed throughout the year. This variant is sufficient in the presence of a meadow where the animals can graze abundantly.
  • Excellent / winter pellet
    Has an extra additive for increased resistance and lends itself extremely well for the winter period, to give the dams in particular something extra in times when the grass has a lower nutritional value. This chunk is of course also all year round
    This is certainly recommended if there is no or little quality grass vegetation in the outdoor area.
  • joey junior summer pellet
    The Junior summer grain is specially adapted for young animals. The small size of the pellet makes it easier for young animals to absorb, which benefits these young joey's to stimulate their digestion and optimal condition. The composition is the same as the summer chick for adults.
  • joey junior winter pellet
    The Junior winter pellet is specially adapted for young animals. It is a small pellet which makes it easier for young animals to absorb, which benefits these young joey's to stimulate their digestion and optimal condition. The composition is the same as the winter pellet for adults.

supplementary feed for kangaroos

In addition to daily fresh water, Gunyah recommends feeding good quality hay all year round.

Also the regular supply of fresh willow branches or branches of unsprayed fruit trees is not a luxury. If there are no leaves left in the winter, this is no reason not to give them, because it is the stripping of the bark that gives the added value.

It is also advisable to feed forage carrots in the winter months.

Tips for feeding

Let the kid pee before you give milk. Hold a piece of kitchen paper under the lukewarm tap and rub it gently along the pubic area and over the hairs around the cloaca. Then allow the youngster to pee or shit immediately.

Feed the young while it is in the pouch. This is more natural and costs less energy for the youngster.

Keep the young kangaroo upright. Don't lay the joey back like a baby.
Covering the eyes reduces distractions and makes them feel safer. As a result, the young kangaroo will drink more and better.

Put a towel/bag around the joey while feeding. Then you can immediately wipe up any spilt milk and the pouch will stay clean.

bottle feeding a baby kangaroo joey

 

 

Weighing

Weigh the young kangaroo regularly, so you know if it grows well.

Just putting it exposed on a scale doesn't work. So put the young kangaroo in a pillowcase and put it on the scales. That makes it a lot easier. Then weigh the pillowcase and subtract that weight from the first weight. And then you'll know how heavy the cub is.

Write down the weight in a diagram and also note how much the cub has drunk. You can also add other details. For example, a description of the stool.
This way you have a nice overview of the development.

Temperature / breathing / heart rhythm

Ambient temperature

Young kangaroos who do not have hair cannot regulate their body temperature themselves. For this they are completely dependent on their mother.

In a coatless youngster the temperature in the pouch should be between 32 and 34°C. With a thin coat this can be lowered to 30°C, with a thicker coat 28°C.

Measure the ambient temperature around the young. A digital thermometer with an outdoor temperature sensor is ideal. Put the sensor in the pouch and you can read the temperature in the pouch at any time.

Body temperature

A normal body temperature is 35.5 to 37.0 degrees Celsius.
The body temperature is best measured with a normal human fever thermometer or an animal thermometer. Put some Vaseline on the tip and put it in the cloaca (the poop hole). This is the only way to accurately measure the body temperature of the kangaroo.

Respiration

A normal breathing rhythm for kangaroos is between 20 and 40 breaths per minute. Small breeds have a faster breathing rate.

Heart rate

An adult large kangaroo M. Rufa, has a heart rhythm of 40 beats per minute at rest.
Smaller species and younger animals have a resting heart rhythm of about 70 to 200 beats per minute.

Surrogate pouch for young kangaroos and wallabies

Young kangaroos can become very stressed if they are not housed in a pouch. Moreover, they quickly lose their body heat and precious energy if you let them walk around too early.

Young kangaroos prefer to sit with their legs folded above their heads in a hanging surrogate pouch.

A surrogate pouch is best made of natural materials. An old t-shirt is very suitable for the inside. A flannel pillowcase is also often used, but this material can start pilling. These balls can end up in the nose and make breathing difficult. You should always prevent the young kangaroo from nibbling on fluffy/hairy material.

A good pouch consists of several layers

The best material for the inside of the surrogate pouch is a t-shirt of which the armholes and bottom are sewn shut. The neck opening is then the entrance to the inner pouch. Make several inside pockets so you can change them. And wash them at 60 degrees.

The outside of the pouch should be soft, warm and insulating. For example, the Leika Snuggle Pouch is good to use for this. Make a few holes in the upper rim yourself, so you can hang it upright, and you have a nice, warm pouch right away.

You can place even more heat insulation between the inner pouch and the outer pouch. If the outside pocket is too big, you can fill it up with, for example, an old sweater. This way you can make a nice spot for your young kangaroo where it fits exactly. Preferably a young kangaroo hangs folded up in the inside pocket, with the back legs near the head.

Heat is very important

In the mother's pouch it is 32-34 degrees, so it must be that warm in the artificial pouch as well.

Between the inner pouch and the outer pouch you can place an infrared heating mat, jug or Snugglesafe. Regularly measure the temperature in the pouch, and see what is needed. Too hot is certainly not good.

Sometimes it is useful to place an extra layer of wool between the heating mat and the inner pouch. Or place the heat mat on the outside of the artificial pouch

beating heart

What is also useful in the surrogate pouch is a beating heart of a Snuggle Cap. This device has a palpable heartbeat, which calms the young kangaroo. After all, in the pouch he can also feel his mother's heartbeat.

wallaby in a foot muffElectric footmuff

Another handy solution is an electric footmuff, containing a pillowcase. Regularly measure the temperature in the pouch. Often such a footmuff has several positions, so try to reach a temperature of 28 to 34 degrees (this depends on the hair). If the kangaroo is still very small, and there is a lot of space in the footmuff, you can fill the footmuff with a towel. Because if there is too much space in the pouch, a lot of heat disappears as well.
The kangaroo should not stand in it, but be rolled up in it on its back. Preferably with the legs above his head. In the same way he sits with his mother in the pouch.

Quiet environment

Hang the surrogate pouch in a quiet place and leave the animal alone between feedings. Kangaroos are stress sensitive animals, especially in the beginning.

Check the inside of the pouch regularly. The fragile toes and fingers can become entangled in loose threads. This reduces the blood circulation and can cause a finger to die. Fluffy lining can be eaten, which can cause intestinal problems.

As soon as it is young enough to get in and out of the pouch yourself, place the pouch in a bench or other fence, so that it can always get in and out of the pouch safely.

Carrying your kangaroo with you

Many people carry their young kangaroo with them during the day. This can be very pleasant for the young kangaroo. You then become a kind of surrogate mother, and your warmth, heartbeat and movement reassure the young kangaroo.

It is best to make a kind of surrogate pouch out of a shirt. You wear it under a wide sweater or shirt, and then the young kangaroo can look outside through your collar.

kangaroo t-shirt

 

Do you need extra advice?

Gunyah is always available for urgent questions and/or remarks. Advice is given based on years of own experience with nine different kangaroo species and bundled experiences of third parties.
In case of specific medical questions, we always refer you to expert veterinary specialists in the field of kangaroos.


The original Blijdorp Zoo recipe

developed by J. Nijboer, nutrition expert at Blijdorp

Ingredients:
Whipped Cream 35% (from the supermarket, pay attention to the fat percentage!)
Protifar (proteine diet food, from the pharmacy)
Calcium monophosphate (from calcium tablets)
Calcium carbonate (calcium tablets from the pharmacy)
Galactose (from our webshop)

For 200 ml kangaroo milk:

    19 g protifar
    1,2 g calciummonofosfaat
    1 g calciumcarbonaat
    4,4 g galactose

To this, add:

    40 g whipped cream with 35% fat (make sure to get the right fat percentage!)
    136 g water

The major problem with this recipe is the lack of vitamines and minerals. The zoo has raised multiple young kangaroos on this recipe, although those were older, furred animals. Blijdorp has since changed to Fox Valley 30/50 and galactose. At least two kangaroos have been raised on that recipe.


Further reading

Below, we have collected a number of scientific articles on kangaroo milk. Most require some knowlegde of nutrients. All these articles emphasise that marsupial milk is very different from that of other mammals, changes composition often and contains almost no lactose.

Changes in milk composition of Tammar Wallaby (opent een pdf-document)

Milk carbohydrates of marsupials (opent een pdf-document)

Nutrition of pouch young marsupials (opent een pdf-document)

Milkbook van Wombaroo (opent een pdf-document)

end of manual for handrearing kangaroo joey