Miller Park Zoo’s mob of wallabies is the largest in the United States. A mob usually consists of a single male and several females. Our mob has eleven wallabies and two wallaroo.
Wallabies, wallaroos, and kangaroos are marsupials or pouched mammals that differ in size. tendons in their legs make it possible for them to retain energy while they hop. They have color vision and are able to drink seawater.
Wallabies are good swimmers because they have somewhat webbed feet and strong legs. Because they feed mainly on leaves and do not need to nip off grass like a kangaroo, the wallaby’s front incisors are much smaller than those of a kangaroo. Wallaby teeth are flat because they need to crush and grind their food. When their teeth get ground down, they fall out and are replaced with new teeth.
Wallaby babies are called joeys. When they are born, they are no larger than a jellybean and weigh as little as one gram. For tammar wallabies, this gestation is 28 days, for the wallaroo it is 32 days. After they are born, they crawl up from the mother’s birth canal along a trail the mother licks to lead them to her pouch. The tiny joey attaches firmly to a nipple in the mother’s pouch and remains attached up until it is around five months old. It will not leave the pouch permanently until it is up to 9 months old. Even after a joey leaves the pouch, it often returns when danger approaches. This means a wallaby pouch can be quite crowded with a joey firmly attached to one nipple and its older sibling still returning to the mother’s pouch to nurse from another nipple. When you see an older wallaby duck headfirst into its mother’s pouch its legs may stick out until it can turn itself around and disappear completely. A females can nurse a joey in her pouch while keeping an embryo in her uterus. And if that is not amazing enough, the milk the joey gets from the nipple it is attached to is a different formula than the older joey gets.
The eight species of wallabies are: Western brush, Toolache, Parma, Black-striped, Agile, Bennett’s, Tammar, and Whiptailed. They are native to Australia, and are found in a variety of habitats, from woodlands to grasslands and even mountainous regions. Our wallabies are Tammar Wallabies.
When you walk through the exhibit there is no danger the mob will mob you. They like to keep their distance. When the keeper brings their food, they do not approach her. Once she has placed the bowl of food on the ground and walks away, they approach the food.
Miller Park Zoo has an excellent record of wallaby births. There have been twelve joeys born in the last five years.