Sunday, May 18, 2008

Baby albino wallaby rejected by mom

There's a new addition to the preemie ward at Cypress Gardens, and keepers are giving it around-the-clock care. An albino wallaby named Bela gave birth to an albino baby about four months ago. In and of itself, the birth is pretty amazing -- albino wallabies are rare. Fewer than 10 have been born in the United States. The new baby girl was supposed to stay in her mom's pouch until next winter, where she could nurse, grow fur, and get stronger. But fate stepped in. About a week and a half ago, a park employee found the new baby outside the pouch. Gardens officials are not sure what happened. They suspect that Bela may have been spooked, and threw the baby out. That's what wallaby moms do in the wild to save their own skins when they're threatened. Since the baby is not even old enough to stand, it couldn't climb back in. Keepers tried to put it back in, but Bela would have no part of it. "The mother growled at us. She didn't want anything to do with her," said Jessica Bond, an animal manager. "So it was in the baby's best interest to pull her and hand-raise her." That's easier said than done. The baby, who hasn't been named yet, eats a few tablespoons of a special formula every three hours. Keepers, who take turns bringing the little one home, are up in the middle of the night feeding her. Every other feeding they have to grease the baby with Vaseline, which simulates the mom licking her. Gradually, the feedings will taper off. But she won't be fully weaned for another year. Source: MyFox, Tampa Bay

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