October 15 - 21, 2017: Issue 333

The Long Hop To Freedom

The Long Hop to Freedom

It was a chilly day in August last year when we received a call from Scott to attend to a fatally-ill female swamp wallaby who was having trouble hopping and could hardly stand. She had cataracts in both eyes and could barely see. She was also carrying a joey. 

The mother wallaby was sedated for transportation to a veterinarian. Her cute little joey was a very curious critter and kept peering out of the pouch to see what was happening. Dr Ward examined the mum but she was already moribund and he decided to extract the joey before the situation became too stressful for them both. The joey was a tiny furless 300g boy. He was in good health and after a quick examination, Dr Ward popped him into a fleecy pouch to stay warm. Before the mum passed away, we allowed her to ‘say goodbye’ to her joey. It was a very moving moment for all of us. We promised her that we would take good care of her baby. And then she slipped away. 

Cassius with Dr Ward after being extracted from his mum’s pouch.

A touching goodbye :(

The tiny boy tried to box his way out of his new artificial pouch and he put up his dukes whenever we looked in on him. So a friend suggested we call him Cassius (Clay) aka Mohammed Ali.

Cassius was quite the character from the start. He did what joeys are meant to do - drink milk, grow fur, venture from the pouch - but he tried to do all these things in a mad hurry. He was trying to stand and hop long before his time! He never seemed to sleep. Was always looking out of his pouch and desperate not to miss out on anything. FOMO could’ve been his middle name! FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) was almost the death of him. He tried to follow me up the stairs one day - long before he was hopping ably. And he fell… We rushed him straight to the vet, fearing that he may have fractured something but the x-rays were clear. Phew! Then - instead of staying in his heated pouch like a normal wallaby joey - he kept venturing out to find everyone and ended up getting pneumonia. Sigh. Back to the vet. 

Cassius and his little play-mate, Xena.

Cassius inspecting the Christmas Tree.

Cuddles from his big brother. 

Well, Cassius tried everything, went on exploration adventures, got up to mischief, posed for photos and all the time he grew and grew.

5 months from the date of his rescue he had grown from 300g to 3kg. It was time for Cassius to graduate to 'Big School' aka The Sydney Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility.

Our Rehab Facility is also known as Waratah Park. It is where “Skippy the Bush Kangaroo” was filmed many years ago. (Our lovely Facility Manager, Joan Reid, was granted permission from the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council - MLALC - to utilise a section of Waratah Park for wildlife rehabilitation. The first thing she did was build a big fenced area for a macropod yard. The word macropod is derived from Greek and literally means ‘big foot’. Kangaroos, wallabies and wallaroos are all examples of macropods. In addition to the macropod yard, Joan also organised for the volunteers to build a ‘rubber room’. The rubber attached to the walls allows the joeys or injured macropods to jump around without injuring themselves.)

In contrast to the chilly day when Cassius was rescued, the day of his ‘soft release’ was sizzling! I think it was close to 38 degrees. Joan had the sprinklers on for all the animals and one of our members - Nicole Wedlock - captured a gorgeous photo of Cassius dripping in water from the sprinklers. It was quite weird to leave him there. I felt a bit like we’d abandoned him but we knew it was time for him to become a proper wallaby. In preparation for his release back to the wild, Cassius would need to become dehumanised. This meant reducing his contact with humans and allowing him the chance to experience storms, rain, parasites, fending for himself around other wallabies etc. 

Scott ‘soft releasing’ Cassius at Waratah Park.

Nicole Wedlock’s gorgeous photo of Cassius in the sprinkler.

Well, luckily he integrated quite well with the others and quickly settled down to life as a big boy.

Cass-cass spent almost 8 months in the Rehab Facility. The wonderful volunteers that keep the facility running like clockwork make sure that all the animals are fed, clean and safe. They are always careful not to interact with the joeys that are being dehumanised and keep their visits limited to once a day. When Cassius reached 7kg and was entirely independent, it was time to go back to his site of rescue and be a wild wallaby.

14 months from the day he was rescued, he was captured, sedated and transported to his release site. The day was cool and the gentle rain added to the beauty of the very picturesque setting where Scott could keep an eye on him from afar.

We released him from the transportation bag and waited for the sedative to wear off. He blinked his eyes at the new surrounds and then gently hopped off. 


His day of release. Such a big boy!

By Lynleigh Grieg
Sydney Wildlife