Kalina, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s female wallaby, has given birth to the zoo’s first baby wallaby.
This is the first joey for Kalina, whose name was chosen earlier this year through a public naming contest. (Young wallabies are called joeys.)
A wallaby is different from a kangaroo in that a wallaby is smaller, and the nose and ears are darker and rounder. Kangaroos are lighter in color, and there are more species of wallaby than of kangaroos.
Kalina and her joey are part of a species called Bennett’s wallabies. They are born about the size of a jellybean and are then carried in their mother’s pouch for eight to nine months as they continue to grow and develop.
The young wallaby is approximately five to six months old, which is the age that joeys typically begin exploring life outside the mother’s pouch.
“We are very excited about the arrival of our first wallaby joey, and we’re now seeing it start to pop its head out of the pouch,” Dr. Julie Barnes, the zoo’s vice president of animal care and health, said in a news release. “You might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the joey’s head or legs hanging out of Kalina’s pouch, and if you look closely at her pouch, you will notice a lot of movement as the joey is now very active inside there.
“It will still be a while before the joey is ready to come all the way out of the pouch and spend time exploring the habitat with Kalina. And it will continue to hop in and out of the pouch until it is about 1 year old.”
“We believe the joey was born around January. We started to see evidence in February when we saw her pouch moving around,” Kelly Summers, an animal keeper at the zoo, told the News-Press.
“The joey and Kalina are doing well. They are visible almost every day,” Ms. Summers said. “Kalina comes out in the morning and has the option to relax in view of the public. The joey pops his head in and out and is starting to get more curious and aware.
“Kalina is protective. She keeps her distance and is sure to eat and rest throughout the day,” Ms. Summer said.
“We don’t know what sex the joey is yet,” Ms. Summer said. “It should start to come out of the pouch in two to four months so after that we might be able to tell. But we are going to keep our distance and let them be a family.”
After a short gestation of approximately one month, Bennett’s wallabies are born looking embryonic and weighing barely one ounce. The newborn joeys are hairless and underdeveloped but have strong enough forelimbs to climb up and into their mothers’ pouch. The single newborn then latches on and feeds from the mother, and continues to develop.
The Bennett’s wallaby is a medium-sized marsupial found along the eastern coast of Australia and on the island of Tasmania. Adults can weigh between 30 and 40 pounds and stand about three feet tall, with males being slightly larger than females. Their native habitat ranges from eucalyptus forests to open areas adjacent to forests.
“It’s the first time we have had any Bennett’s at the Zoo,” said Ms. Summers.
“This is a brand new species for the zoo family, and we are excited to give it a try. This is a unique habitat, and we are excited to have guests and staff experience. It’s a really unique experience for our guests. They were starting to notice pouch movements at the same time as us.”
Kalina and her joey are part of the Santa Barbara Zoo’s new Australian Walkabout, which opened in January and features a 15,000 square-foot habitat designed to transport guests “Down Under,” where they can walk among the wallabies, kangaroos and emus and see native birds.
The area is also designed to help visitors develop a deeper understanding of wildlife conservation.
The News-Press asked Ms. Summers what she would like zoo visitors to know when they come to the zoo in hope of seeing the joey.
“I think it’s one of those things that you have to have patience,” she said. “Just like any new mom, Kalina has days where she might not want to be visible. Throughout the day, she tends to warm up and come out throughout the day. Keep your eyes peeled. Sometimes the joey pops out real quick and right back in.
“There is a little circle in the walkabout, and she tends to stick to the right of that. Both locations are viewable from the veranda above. The walkabout is open between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. So she is often visible from those locations even if the exhibit is closed.”