Kangaroo Orphanage


Coober Pedy is home to a kangaroo orphanage. We visited there at feeding time. Believe it or not, kangaroos LOVE wasabi peas! Unofrtunately the quality of these photos was compromised by not being allowed to use a flash light (it was dusk and light was not good) and the huge numbers of kids crowding the fence line.

Josephine’s Kangaroo Orphanage is a charity run wild life sanctuary which is totally reliant on donations. Unlike most places we visited, entry here was free although donations were gratefully received.

The facility accepts and cares for any injured or orphaned wildlife that comes their way. Many of the joeys (kangaroo babies) are brought in when their mother has killed. Joeys live in the mother’s pouch for over 12 months. People who come across road kill for instance, will often stop to check the pouch to see if the animal is carrying a joey. There are many places throughout Australia that will accept and care for these, and other orphaned animals.

At the time of our visit they were also caring for Piglet, a four month old baby wombat. She was adorable!

Image from Josephine’s FaceBook

Each animal in care is given a name, many being named after the person who rescued them and brought them in. We were introduced to the mob – Dorothy, Maria, Ebony, Bella, Francesca and others. Some had been orphaned as a result of road kill, one had been mauled by a pack of dogs, one had been found next to her mother’s body being eaten by eagles. She was rescued and tiny as she was, made a full recovery.

The animals all receive 24 hour care if necessary. Joeys need bottle feeding 3 – 4 hourly. If an animal is sick, the carers will stay with them round the clock. I learnt so much about kangaroos, listening to Jenny telling us the tales about how each one came to the orphanage, their personalities and care needs. Evident in word and deed is a strong trusting relationship and love between the orphans and their carers.

Most of the animals are moved on to permanent homes once they have fully recovered their health. Sometimes, like in the case of little Maria, a tiny pinkie, it can take  many long months of hard work until they are ready to move on. Most survive. Pinkies are joeys that are so small they have no fur. It is not possible to release kangaroos back into the wild due to the complex and long term socialising that maintains the mob and already starts from the moment the joey emerges into the big wide world.

I never knew that kangaroos have three wombs. It is one of several clever mechanisms that ensure continuity of the species. All wombs carry embryos at the same time. However, birth is delayed until the previous joey has left the mother’s pouch. This is called embryonic diapause. Should a joey die, the mother’s hormones, after a few days of mourning, will kick in and activate the next embryo. As the joeys are so tiny when they are born, the teat grows along with them and the milk changes to ensure appropriate nourishment for the growing baby. All that of course means the joey lays claim to the same teat throughout its infancy. Although not common, kangaroos can sometimes be nursing two joeys at the same time.

Kangaroos also manage their health by chewing on wattle leaves and bark every day. It’s like having a daily tonic. This photo is of Francesca (I think) having her daily dose. Should they become ill, which is not common, it is usually diarrhoea. They have a solution for that too. They eat their own poop! Just once. It fixes the problem.

The red kangaroo is the largest of four different species, and can weigh as much as a 100kg, standing up to 3 metres tall. They are impressive. Kangaroos can leap great distances in a single bound – up to 30 feet, and run at speeds of up to 60 kmh.

Here are some of the resident orphans from over the years, courtesy of Josephine’s Facebook timeline:

Meet little Tiny Tim – Big Red pinkie. Came into care on 1/6/2018 weighing just over 700 grams, ears down and eyes just showing first signs of opening.

Since arrival both eyes and ears have been going through the usual stages – one day 1 ear up and both eyes open, next day both ears down and only 1 eye open, both ears up and eyes open and the next day both ears down and only 1 eye open. Anothercouple of days and ears will be up permanently and both eyes open permanently.

Tiny Tim has caused us no problems at all so far. He feeds well and toilets well and now when he poops it is like little torpedos shooting out. Thinking of setting up a target board for him to aim at. lol.

On 3 hourly feeding 24/7 and just loves his formula.

This is the beautiful Francesca. When she came to us as a joey she was almost starved to death and had been terrorised by dogs and kids. It was quite some time before she would trust us to tend to her wounds and feed her. It was a long slow road for her rehabilitation but well worth it, as you can see. She has grown into a magnificent beautiful girl. Named after one of our helpers (Francesca – Fra Fuga) who was instrumental in Francesca’s recovery to health.

Bella enjoying a sleep in the sun. Big Red kangaroos love lying on their back to sleep.

Tiny ‘Little Duffy’ who unfortunately didn’t survive. This is the smallest joey we have ever seen.

© Raili Tanska
Steps for Peace
Love unconditionally

21 thoughts on “Kangaroo Orphanage

    1. If you’re ever in Australia, there are many organisations that do this kind of work. I guess this is kind of unique given where it is. They are kept very busy

      1. If provoked, big reds can be. However, the grand-daughter of a friend of mine grew up with one and they had no problems. They used to play fight and tussle together alI the time. I think, like with any animal friends, if well treated they are OK.

  1. Tried to comment earlier but failed. I think the best response to this aside what I texted you earlier would be … ARGHhhhhh!!!!! WANT! So thankful to you for writing this and sharing it with us dearest Raili 💓

    1. No, they climb up into the pouch after birth and attach to a teat that grows with them. They are REALLY tiny, blind and hairless at birth – if you watch the video you’ll be amazed at how they survive that climb.

  2. Haven’t watched it yet. I have a few of them stacked up. Think I’m getting in over my head. I’m leading two classes at church and I think I overestimated my ability to do that just now…

    1. I have so much to catch up on having been away for a month, I’ve decided that it is unrealistic to do that on top of everything else… good luck. Take care of yourself x

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