Wallabies hop to Cougar Mountain Zoo habitat

November 9, 2010

By Laura Geggel

Lantana, a female wallaby, carries Hemlock, then 9 months old, in her pouch while they share Easter treats in April at Cougar Mountain Zoo. By Cougar Mountain Zoo

The Cougar Mountain Zoo’s swamp wallaby family is growing, and so is its habitat.

Swamp wallabies look like miniature kangaroos, and just like their fellow marsupials, wallabies come from Australia. The zoo’s two swamp wallabies must have been whipping their tails — a form of courtship — because they already have a 1-year-old daughter and another baby kicking in the mother’s pouch.

The parents, 6-year-old Bracken and 5-year-old Lantana, are named for plants that are poisonous to humans, but not to swamp wallabies. Their daughter Hemlock, born July 2009, was born after 32 days of gestation, much shorter than the roughly 40 weeks humans take.

After birth, wallabies spend at least eight months in their mother’s pouches. Cougar Mountain Zoo General Curator Robyn Barfoot said zoo patrons loved seeing Hemlock poke her head out of Lantana’s pouch, her golden brown ears and chocolate brown head looking around her habitat.

Joanne Mockford, of Issaquah, visited the zoo on a sunny day Nov. 3 with her two young daughters, Zoe and Holly Mockford.

“We love wallabies,” Joanne Mockford said. “We saw the last little joey when it wasn’t so big, with just legs sticking out.”

After her birth in July, Hemlock laid low, but it wasn’t long before Barfoot noticed her kicking in her mother’s pouch.

“We started see some kicking around last year in October, and then out pops this cute little leg and this little nose,” Barfoot said.

Soon after, Bracken and Lantana began whipping their tails again. Their second joey was likely born in May, but it is still in Lantana’s pouch, gender unknown. It can be seen kicking in its mother’s pouch, an activity Barfoot calls joey yoga.

Before long, a mob — a group of wallabies — will be hopping around Cougar Mountain Zoo.

“Since their family is expanding, we expanded the wallaby habitat,” in late October, Barfoot said.

The expansion added about 50 percent more space to the swamp wallaby habitat, giving it an L-shape. The emus lost some of their space, but Barfoot said it was likely the birds did not notice the missing room.

The remodeling cost between $8,000 and $10,000, Barfoot said, especially after the zoo adds Japanese maples to the habitat.

The swamp wallabies are making use of their new space, including Hemlock, the curious daughter, who can be found playing in puddles and coming closer to zoo patrons than her mother and father.

“She is just kind of hopping around,” Barfoot said. “She is not as shy as her parents are in regards to the public.”

The public can support the swamp wallabies through the zoo’s Adopt a Wild One program. Hemlock has one adoptive parent, but could always use more, Barfoot said.

People can contribute as little as $35 to as much as $1,000 a year to their adoptive animals. Depending on their donation, adoptive parents can receive photos and information about their child, free zoo tickets or even a special encounter with their wild child.

Money from the program pays for enrichment, such as toys or special snacks. During Halloween, the swamp wallabies received a hallowed out pumpkin with lettuce and yams, and Hemlock has a ball from her parent.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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