Happy Baby Animal, But What the Heck is it?

August 26, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Wild Animals

Wombat baby, see a Ringtail Possum marsupial tooWombat baby recovering nicely after rescue, Photo courtesy Park Victoria-Facebook

This adorable baby animal is a newborn Wombat rescued from its mother’s pouch after a fatal accident!

A mother Wombat was apparently grazing along a roadside in Australia and hit by an oncoming car. A passerby, familiar with the type of animal she was, searched her pouch and found a still living baby trying to nurse on its mother’s teat.

The little baby animal was shivering with cold, so the rescuer quickly made an emergency phone call to a wildlife helpline in Kinglake, Victoria. Kim Hunter, a 48 year old ranger and volunteer animal care giver, soon arrived at the scene to pick up the baby and take it to her home. Although the baby was close to death, Kim was able to nurse her back to health with around-the-clock care.

A sad story for the mom, but a great rescue for the baby. Kim named the baby “Leah,” who now at five weeks of age has doubled in size. She’s grown from a tiny 300 grams (10.4 oz) when found to a whopping 650 grams (1.43 lb).

In Kim’s own words, as reported by John Kelly of Mirror.com.UK, the online edition of a British tabloid The Daily Mirror, “Leah was cold to the touch and weighed only 300 grams when she arrived, she now weighs 650 grams. She’s very lucky, although she was uninjured she was cold to the touch and I’d say she was only a few hours away from dying.

“Wombats often graze at the side of the road and are sometimes hit by oncoming cars, her mother must have shielded her against the blow. Leah is too young to grow her own fur yet so I keep her on a heated mat, I have to bottle feed her every four hours, even throughout the night. But it’s definitely been worth it, we’ve built a strong bond over the weeks, she knows I’m her mum now. The online response to Leah is unbelievable, people have really fallen in love with Leah.”

Wombats are small pudgy looking marsupials that walk on four legs. Marsupials are mammals that carry their young in a pouch. Well known examples include kangaroos, wallabies, possums, opossums, and koalas. Wombats are great burrowers. They use those very long claws you can see on the adult, along with strong rodent-like front teeth to dig extensive burrow systems. A unique characteristic of these marsupials is that the females pouch is backward-facing. This way they don’t get soil in the pouch from their energetic digging.

Wombat AdultWombat Adult at Maria Island National Park, Photo Wiki Commons, courtesy JJ Harrison

A mother Wombat gives birth to a single baby and then carries that baby in her pouch for about six to seven months. The young Wombat weans at about 15 months and becomes sexually mature at 18 months. A full grown adult averages a length of about 3 1/4 feet (1 m) and weighs between 44-77 lb (20-35 kg).

Mother Wombats must forage heavily to feed both themselves and their young babies. They tend to forage along roads, but unfortunately this means often crossing the roads as well as feeding early in the morning and late into the night. Drivers must be very careful.

Kim’s experience with this baby has created quite a stir and its been reported in numerous online publications. Further, with the very curious picture of this baby looking much like a reclining little old man with a big smile on its face, got picked up to become a subject of a Photoshop challenge on Reddit. Thus some creative/crazy humans had a lot of fun and with it and it has become a meme.

Yet what really strikes me is the human capacity for compassion and caring, and that trumps all other sideline fascinations. Big kudos go out to the passerby who rescued the newborn and to Ranger Kim Hunter, for her quick action to save baby Leah’s life and her continuing dedication as Leah’s “mum.” Kim’s got her work cut out for her with these babies not weaning until around 15 months of age, and Leah has lots of growing to do! And lastly, a big thanks to Parks Victoria for posting the photo on their facebook page, helping to bring awareness to this darling animal.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

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