Pip the adorable Bennett’s wallaby joey had an unusual childhood to say the least – he grew up in a recyclable yellow shopping bag, and instead of his mom, he had a team of human caregivers at Night Safari who took turns to shower him with tender love.
Our keepers discovered the still pink wallaby joey abandoned in the Wallaby Trail exhibit on 31 May 2015 and immediately rescued him. He was only about two months old then! We tried to reunite mother and young, but this proved unsuccessful. Ultimately, a decision was made to hand-raise the joey, who has since been christened Pip.
As he was only a delicate 160g when found, our most pressing concern was to find a suitable space for Pip to continue his development in the same way as he would in his mother’s pouch. In an ideal scenario, Pip would spend all its time in his mother’s pouch before venturing out at about seven months.
Our keepers’ creative solution was to repurpose a recyclable shopping bag into a surrogate pouch. Talk about reduce, reuse and recycle! The recyclable bag was lined with a towel that had been sewn to resemble a pouch he could comfortably snuggle into. As Pip grew bigger and stronger, the inner cloth was replaced to accommodate his size. The makeshift pouch turned out to be an excellent choice as it provided the body warmth and shelter similar to a wallaby mother’s pouch.
After four months of intense and tender loving care from his keepers, Pip has grown by leaps and bounds. He’s now approximately six months old and weighs 530g! He’s fed every five hours with a special formula for macropods and has even started nibbling on leaves. A typical day also includes some time away from his yellow haven, when he gets to exercises his muscles and undergoes daily weight checks.
To monitor his health and development, his caregiver totes him about in his recyclable yellow shopping bag, to the vets, for his twice weekly health checks. We’ve heard he’s quite the star over at our vet hospital.
Our keepers will continue caring for Pip till the day he becomes more independent and has graduated to solids completely. This will likely happen within a year’s time, after which he will slowly be reintroduced to the mob of wallabies at Night Safari’s Wallaby Trail.
For now, the cosy recyclable yellow shopping bag is never far from the young wallaby, providing warmth and security approximately 20 hours a day. Our keepers say that once the recyclable shopping bag has completed its tour of duty as a surrogate pouch, it will resume its initial purpose of helping to save the earth from plastic trash pollution.