Meet Makaia, the miracle kangaroo.
Makaia means “magic” in Tok Pisin, a Papua New Guinean language. When he was but 47 days old, Makaia was orphaned. To save his life, his keepers at Adelaide Zoo placed him in the pouch of a yellow-footed rock wallaby. The cross-fostering was a world first and made news globally.
When Makaia outgrew his foster mum’s pouch at three-and-a-half months, he was hand-raised by his keeper. He’s the only tree kangaroo to have had three mummies!
Makaia arrived with a teddy bear in tow – a gift from his keepers in Australia for company on the long trip. Rather timid at first, he’d climb up high to survey his surroundings from vantage points. He’s since settled in well.
Unlike most animals that feed with their mouth when handfed, Makaia receives food with his forepaw before popping it in his mouth – quite the gentleman!
As for the teddy, Makaia’s said bye to it. Even thunder and lightning faze him no longer!
Our 'mummy’s boy' is a big boy now and may soon become a father himself.
The World Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s (WAZA) Global Species Management Plan (GSMP) has “match-made” Makaia with Nupela, who hailed from Taronga Zoo.
The first Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo to be born there in over 20 years, Nupela also enjoyed ‘celebrity’ status back in Sydney. Like Makaia, she arrived here in 2016. It seems she’s something of a foodie too – a perfect fit for Singapore!
The latest addition to our tree kangaroo family is a female joey, born to our other pair of tree kangaroos, Toea and Blue. Though she returns to Blue for milk, she’s also taking vegetables like brinjals, corn, long beans, carrots and kang kong. Keepers say she’s cautious but curious. They’ve conditioned her to go into a pet carrier to facilitate trips to the vet. She enjoys watching the keepers go about cleaning her den and loves playing with water from the hose!
Females have a forward-opening pouch with four teats. After a pregnancy of 21-38 days, a mother prepares for the arrival of her baby roo by giving her pouch a thorough lick. Her newborn – the size of a jellybean – climbs into the safety of her pouch all by itself and clamps onto one of the teats. That’s where it stays and grows for the next 10-12 months. A joey that’s left the pouch will still return frequently for months to nurse, but only from ‘its own’ teat.
A long time ago, kangaroos evolved from tree-dwelling marsupials, developing adaptations for living on the ground. Tree kangaroos broke off from their land cousins by going back to arboreal life. Their forelimbs grew muscular, their feet broadened and their claws curved to help them climb. They usually take little hopping steps and are unable to move more than two "kangaroo hops" at a go. However, they can leap up to 15m from tree to ground and can even walk backwards!
In the last 50 years, their wild population has gone down 50% due to hunting for food by locals and habitat loss to logging. There are only 50 individuals under human care globally. Singapore Zoo is custodian to five of them. In 2012, a GSMP was set up by WAZA to ensure the survival of this species.