A file picture of the joey and its mother at Alipore zoo
One way to ensure the survival of the zoo’s lone kangaroo is to avoid getting too close to it, suggest experts of the Czech Republic zoo which had sent the 10-month-old joey’s mother and three other marsupials that died within 14 months of their arrival.
In response to a query from the Alipore zoo authorities, the Czech vets have advised that the joey’s health be monitored from a distance because getting close can lead to complications.
The zoo officials, who came in for flak for the premature death of four kangaroos, had got in touch with the Czech experts in a desperate attempt to ensure the joey was spared a similar fate.
The joey’s mother, the last of the four kangaroos that arrived last June, died of acute haemorrhage in the lungs on August 6.
“We are faced with a unique situation. Zoo-keepers in this part of the world do not have much experience in handling kangaroos.... And we are left with a baby whom we want to save at all cost,” said a member of the Alipore zoo board.
The “small list” of dos and don’ts related to the nurturing of the young marsupial was based on its vital statistics and details of its diet and behaviour the zoo authorities had sent to the Czech experts.
A key advice on the list is to monitor the joey from a distance so that it does not get intimidated. No one should be allowed to enter the marsupial’s enclosure apart from the handler who goes in with food, the experts have said.
“Getting close to the baby may create noise which might lead to stress. This is one of the reasons for myopathy in kangaroos, a muscle disease that can turn fatal,” said zoo vet D.N. Banerjee.
The zoo vets have also been told to monitor on a regular basis the diet and functioning of the digestive system of the kangaroo. “We are keeping an eye on the diet and excretion of the joey. As long as it is eating and digesting properly, it’s health is stable,” said Banerjee.
Besides the regular diet of “roots and fruits”, the cub is being given a milk-based drink twice daily to make up for the lactose nourishment it was getting from its mother.
“The Czech experts have suggested that we should not feed milk to the joey in a bottle. According to them, it’s old enough to drink it from a bowl,” said Banerjee.
The vets are taking special care to clean the fruits and roots the joey is feeding on. “We are getting the surface cleaned, and even peeled off, so that it does not contract any infection,” Banerjee said.
The biggest concern of the zoo officials is that the joey has been left all alone after her mother’s death. Kangaroos are social animals living in groups — or mobs — of sizes ranging from two to 100.
The officials are happy that the baby, which was “sorrowful” for a few days after the mother’s death, has resumed normal activities. “It is coming out of the night shelter and spending time outdoor,” Banerjee said.
Wildlife experts, however, are not sure whether the baby could escape the mother’s fate. “The location of the enclosure has not been changed. It’s close to a road. A drain beside the road is covered with an iron grille. Whenever vehicles pass over it, especially at night, the noise and vibration disturb the animals,” said an expert.