'Miracle' orphan kangaroo headed here

Makaia the kangaroo will be paired with another tree kangaroo when it arrives at the Singapore Zoo next week. The kangaroo first made headlines in 2014 when it was adopted by a wallaby after its mother died, the first time this had happened.
Makaia the kangaroo will be paired with another tree kangaroo when it arrives at the Singapore Zoo next week. The kangaroo first made headlines in 2014 when it was adopted by a wallaby after its mother died, the first time this had happened.PHOTO: ADELAIDE ZOO

The Singapore Zoo will welcome a new member next week when Makaia, a "miracle" orphaned tree kangaroo, arrives from Adelaide.

The Adelaide Zoo said yesterday that Makaia will undergo final health checks from its veterinary team in preparation for the transfer.

In Singapore, the male tree kangaroo will be paired with a female Goodfellow's tree kangaroo from Taronga Zoo, with the aim of starting their own family.

Goodfellow's tree kangaroos inhabit the rainforests of New Guinea and are a distant relative of the kangaroo and wallaby. The species lives in trees and rarely descends to the ground.

Makaia made global headlines in November 2014 when - in a world-first for conservation - it was adopted by a wallaby after the tree kangaroo's mother, Kia, died when it was seven weeks old.

Adelaide Zoo keepers and veterinarians saved Makaia's life using a surrogate yellow-footed rock-wallaby mother - a technique never before attempted with a tree kangaroo.

Cross-fostering, a special breeding technique that Adelaide Zoo began pioneering in the 1990s, involves the transfer of endangered joeys to the pouch of a surrogate mother of a different wallaby species.

This accelerates the breeding cycle of the original wallaby, allowing the female to increase its reproduction rate up to six or eight times in some species.

Makaia stayed with its wallaby mum for about 31/2 months until it became too big for the wallaby's pouch and a keeper took over caring for it.

Adelaide Zoo senior veterinarian Ian Smith said: "We couldn't be happier with how he has grown and developed.

"It's now time for him to start his next chapter and we're confident he's going to do really well.

"He is extremely genetically valuable for the region and we are hopeful he will form an important part of the international breeding programme working to save this endangered species from extinction."

Adelaide Zoo Natives team leader Gayl Males, who has been with Makaia since the beginning, said: "He has earned himself a special place in the hearts of the zoo's staff and visitors with his cheeky personality and amazing strength."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2016, with the headline ''Miracle' orphan kangaroo headed here'. Print Edition | Subscribe