for National Geographic News
In a video first, twin tree kangaroos have been filmed inside their mother's pouch—and the footage proves that the rare joeys can survive even if they detach early from the teat.
Previously, wildlife managers had assumed baby tree kangaroos that went off the nipple wouldn't survive, noted John Chapo, president and CEO of the Lincoln Children's Zoo in Nebraska. Experts consulted said that they had only seen joeys disloged after 152 days, zoo officials said.
"We've now proven that they go off the teat and go back on the teat, and that it is absolutely fine and normal kangaroo behavior," Chapo said. "We have video proof of it."
The footage is the product of zookeeper DaviAnn Buggi spending several weeks gaining the trust of Milla, a rare Matschie's tree kangaroo at the Lincoln Children's Zoo.
"It did not happen overnight," Chapo said. "It is not like your family dog, making him sit and looking in his mouth. This is an animal that is 180 degrees away from that."
Using a magic marker-size camera attached to her right index finger, Buggi gathered video as she peered inside the pouch to check up on the 16-week-old male twins, each about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long.
In the wild, Matschie's tree kangaroos are found only in the rain forests of Papua New Guinea. Adults can reach 20 to 30 inches (51 to 76 centimeters) long and weigh about 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms).
The hoppers, which are able to survive 60-foot (18-meter) leaps from trees, are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to logging, oil exploration, and hunting.
The zoo's captive-breeding program is part of an international effort to save the species from extinction, Chapo noted.
"The more information we gather, especially with regard to its husbandry, the more successful we will be in captive propagation," he said.
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