A wallaby popped its head out of its mother’s pouch last week at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Keepers had observed the newborn pup kicking and moving in the pouch of its mother, Victoria, for the past several weeks, but it had not ventured to stick its head out until March 11. It is the first joey for Victoria and dad, Sydney. The last time a Bennett's wallaby was born at the Zoo was in 1989.
Keepers at the Small Mammal House had been expecting to see a joey make an appearance for the past several weeks. They had noticed kicking inside Victoria’s pouch and her occasionally opening it to check on the baby inside. Since the joey made an appearance, keepers have continued monitoring the two to ensure they are doing well. Veterinarians will perform an exam when the joey is older. Keepers expect that the baby will start spending time outside the pouch in one to two months.
The joey was born several months ago, though it is difficult to be sure of the exact date. Wallaby gestation is exceptionally short, a mere 29 days. Pups are born hairless, blind and weigh less than an ounce. Although they are underdeveloped, they climb into their mother’s pouch using their arms. After they make it to the pouch, they immediately latch on to a nipple to nurse. They finish developing in the pouch, opening their eyes and growing fur, and spend all of their time outside the pouch by 9 months old.
It is possible that Victoria is already pregnant with a second pup. Wallabies can have up to three joeys at one time—one in the uterus, one in the pouch and one living outside the pouch. They are capable of producing milk for older and younger joeys simultaneously. Keepers will continue watching for signs of a second baby.
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