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Skippy – The Farm Kangaroo

I became a wildlife carer many years ago and over the years, dozens of macropods
(Kangaroos, Wallabies and Wallaroos in particular) came to live with me and my family.
Our very first kangaroo was a young, barely furred Eastern Grey Kangaroo doe. With
three primary school aged children at the time, she was named Skippy after the popular
Australian television show.

Skippy became a true family member and as she required three hourly feeds in the
early months, travelled everywhere with us. When in the house, she lived in a cotton lined old woollen jumper (sweater), suspended from a coat-hanger on the back of a chair. I sewed the bottom of the jumper up and cut a hole in the front – which she was then able to pop her head out of to watch what was going on. It was the closest pouch I could provide for her
resembling her own dead mother. After each bottle feed, I would lift her out, tightly snuggled
against me and hold her over the grass – where she would obligingly go to the toilet, allowing her pouch to remain clean and dry.

As Skippy grew, her fur became thicker, her personality developed and everyone delighted in having a kangaroo hopping around the house. She knew where her “pouch” was but frequently somersaulted into one of the family’s laps if they were curled up on the rug in
front of the fire. Within a few months, she preferred to spend longer and longer periods outside grazing on the lawn, but at the slightest unusual noise or change in the weather, she
would flee back to her “pouch” on the back of the veranda chair and dive in. As a treat, we would sometimes give her a small dish of dry rolled oats to eat. These became her favourite food and even in old age, she would hop to the kitchen door, bang on it and when let in, would head straight to the pantry where she knew the oats were kept.

When Skippy was around one year of age, the family went camping for the summer
holidays, leaving me at home to care for the farm and menagerie of orphaned animals. Of
course, as luck would have it, she became listless and unwell while everyone was away. I
rang the vet who admitted he didn’t have much knowledge of kangaroo illnesses, so I then
contacted an elderly couple I had met some time earlier. This couple had reared hundreds of
native animals of every breed, colour and size. As soon as I described Skippy’s symptoms, I
was told to take her to the vet and request he give her a vitamin B injection with selenium. I
followed their instructions and the very obliging and interested vet gave her the injection. As
she was unable to even hold her head up by then, we both knew her chances were slim. I took my very sick little kangaroo home again.

Having to attend an important function that evening, I wrapped Skippy up warmly and
left her in her bed in the kitchen. My heart was heavy as I believed it was highly likely that I
would not see her alive again. Amazingly, she had other ideas. As I put my key in the lock later that evening, I could hear a noise from inside, and was both shocked and delighted to have Skippy hop to the front door to meet me. I entered the kitchen, found the puddle she had produced (in my bare feet – a wonderful positive problem), and around twenty apples rolling around the floor. They had been removed from the box of fresh apples I had just purchased and all had one or two bites out of them. Skippy was well again! In the following years that Skippy lived with me, that was the only time she became ill. In spite of the dozens of macropods that we reared on Mirambeena, Skippy remained the only one who never left the farm to seek an independent life. With a lovely native bush adjacent to our property, most went in and joined the wild kangaroos and wallabies, but although Skippy would spend her days with them, she never went further than our boundary.

She sometimes spent days or even weeks without coming to visit the house, then would
simply turn up on the veranda, knock on the door wanting oats, and lie on her side in true
kangaroo style, across the doormat. When Skippy was in her third year of age, she began spending more time in the house yard again – never touching one of the plants in my one acre garden but enjoying the grass and lying under the washing line, particularly if it was full of washing flapping in the breeze. I noticed her pouch swelling and before long, a tiny head popped out to check on the outside world. The joey was named Matilda (once her gender was established), and following Matilda, Skippy went on to produce a joey every year for the next seventeen years. Initially we believed their father was either Banjo or Clancy – two of the male Eastern Grey Kangaroos that I reared in the subsequent year, however, as Clancy was killed on the road and Banjo disappeared after about six years, we had no idea who the father of all Skippy’s babies were. All of her female joeys remained with her on the farm, although were never as tame or as friendly as she was.

As if it was meant to be, my family gradually left one by one, and due to a health
issue, I decided the time was right for me to sell the farm. To this day I am sure Skippy
helped me make that decision, as my beloved long-time friend quietly passed away.

That was 2014 and she was in her twenty-first year.

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Craig says:

    Another glimpse into a country farm most won’t get to see very nice

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