Schnecksville, PA – Lehigh Valley Zoo, in conjunction with Lehigh Valley Health Network (the Official Motherhood Partner of the LVZoo), is hopping for joy over the announcement of two kangaroo joeys. First time mom, Cara, and second time mom, Sadie, have recently shown enlarged pouches and significant pouch movement; indicating a joey is present. Keepers have also occasionally observed a foot sticking out of the pouch and they are eagerly waiting for the little ones to emerge.
Kangaroo pregnancies and newborns are unique, as joeys are born and then continue to grow inside the pouch. Unlike human newborns, when joeys are born, they are smaller than a cherry and highly underdeveloped (similar to a human embryo at two months). After a gestation period of up to 34 days, the mother will give birth and lick a pathway up the fur of her pouch for the joey to climb unassisted into the pouch where it stays until it is between two and four months old. For this reason, our kangaroos don’t have birthdays but “pouch days”! A “pouch day” is the first time a joey makes an appearance outside the pouch and can be seen on exhibit, so it is difficult to determine the exact day a joey is born.
Acting as a nursery, the pouch serves as a second womb. As the joey grows, it is a common occurrence to see their head and feet hanging outside the pouch since they are becoming larger over time. The pouch will continue to expand to accommodate their growth and a mother kangaroo can even close the pouch (like a drawstring bag) by tightening her muscles to protect the joey from harm. While joeys will occasionally leave the pouch to explore, they will immediately dive back into the pouch if they feel scared or sense danger. The pouch also has sweat glands that help protect the newborn from viruses, bacteria and parasites.
When joeys are between eight and ten months, they are mature enough to leave the pouch for good. During this time, the mother kangaroo can produce two different types of milk to feed two separate babies: one that has emerged from the pouch but is still nursing and another newborn. Only female kangaroos have pouches since they are the ones who are child rearing. Since male kangaroos cannot create milk, they don’t need a pouch.
The newest residents of the LVZoo still need a name. In partnership with LVHN, the LVZoo is hosting a naming poll. The zookeepers have narrowed their list of possible names down to four finalists — Taz, Jenga, Jax, Uno, and Jinx. Fans will then decide for the final official names by voting for their favorite one in person at the Lehigh Valley Zoo using tokens. Two lucky winners will receive a family four pack for picking the winning name!
Anyone interested in helping further the care of the new joeys– or any of the animals – during this critical time is encouraged to visit lvzoo.org/SustainOurMission or to donate on the Zoo’s Facebook page.