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New at the Zoo: Bennett's Wallabies

  • Bennett's wallaby

Meet Victoria and Adelaide—the new Bennett’s wallabies at the Zoo! Get the scoop on the Small Mammal House’s marsupials from curator Steve Sarro and animal keepers Ashton Ball and Esther Wray.

What do visitors want to know about wallabies?

The number one question visitors ask is if they are miniature kangaroos! They are not, but both species are closely related and share some of the same characteristics: long feet, muscular hind legs, a tapered tail that helps them to balance, a pouch for their young and eyes that are set high on their skull. Also, both are native to Australia! 

The trick to spotting the difference between the two is that wallabies tend to be smaller than kangaroos. This species, the Bennett’s wallaby—is about 3 feet tall and weighs between 30 and 40 pounds.

What are Victoria and Adelaide’s personalities like?

Victoria is very independent, whereas Adelaide is inquisitive and is more willing to let keepers approach her. If visitors spot a wallaby lounging in the left-front corner of the yard, it is likely Addy—that seems to be her favorite spot!

What are your favorite facts about wallabies?

Some wallaby species can jump 13 feet in a single leap, and they can reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour while they hop. As well as they move on land, they move pretty well in the water, too; they will “doggie paddle” (use their legs independently) to propel themselves. Our wallabies seem to enjoy sitting in the sprinklers in their yard.

Female wallabies in particular have some extraordinary abilities; they can invert their pouches to clean them, and mothers can produce two different types of milk for their babies (called “joeys”)!

What is the best time to see Victoria and Adelaide?

The best chance of seeing our wallabies during the summer is in the morning when the weather is cooler and the heat of the day has not yet set in. We have also seen them explore their yards on days where the rain is on the lighter side or even misting. Marsupials are an important mammalian group, and we are excited to share their story and unique adaptations with Zoo visitors.

What makes marsupials unique?

Wallabies as with all marsupials are a group of mammals that do things a little bit differently than other placental mammals. They have a pouch—or marsupium—where they raise their offspring.

Joeys are the size of a kidney bean when they are born! They crawl into the pouch, attach to a nipple and grow inside the pouch for several months. Eventually, when big enough, they poke their heads out of the pouch and start exploring the world around them. 

What do they eat?

In the wild, Bennett’s wallabies graze on grasses and will occasionally eat roots. At the Zoo, they have a diverse diet of hay, browse (leafy branches), grass, greens, apples, sweet potatoes and nutritious biscuits that are specially made for wallabies and kangaroos.

What can visitors do to help wallabies?

Visiting Victoria and Adelaide and chatting with their keepers is a great way to connect with these animals. Most of the world’s marsupials live in Australia, where invasive species such as rabbits and foxes are having an impact on the native wildlife. If you travel to the continent, be a responsible tourist. Visit and support organizations that protect wildlife. Shop smart, too! Avoid buying souvenirs made from animals, which could support poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.

Inside the Small Mammal House, we have two additional marsupial species: bettongs and opossums. We encourage folks to visit all three marsupials and learn about the challenges they face in the wild.

This story appears in the July 2018 issue of National Zoo News.