by Linda Dennis
Swamp Wallabies love to hide in thick bush
Tucked up ready for bed
Maddy's friend, Sassy, a female Eastern Wallaroo
And so, farewell!
Meet Maddy, the incredibly lucky little Swamp Wallaby.
Maddy had been a pet for a number of weeks in a small town yard. But luckily her "owner" realised that Maddy needed space and time to learn that she is indeed a Swamp Wallaby, and she was moved to Fourth Crossing Wildlife so that we could prepare her for her return to the wild.
Apparently, so the story goes, Maddy was found after her mother was shot. The mother was crawling to get to Maddy hiding in the bushes and the shooter found her. Isn't that a dreadful story. Shame on you, shooter.
Shooting any Australian native animal in most Australia states and territories is illegal without a permit, however, relevant governing bodies sometimes provide licenses to cull kangaroos when the numbers rise. Shooting wallabies and wallaroos is usually not permitted.
Kangaroos are often "culled" when landowners believe the numbers are too many. It's not something I agree with - in face, I hate it - but there are times of boom and bust, and during a boom numbers can grow and this is often when licenses are permitted. Although I think there are better ways to manage kangaroos over culling. However, Swamp Wallabies don't have the same boom and bust cycle as kangaroos, so I can not understand why Maddys mum was killed. I can only gather that the shooter was doing it for fun. Again I say, shame on you shooter.
Anyway, that's enough of my opinion, let me tell you about Maddy.
As all Swamp Wallabies, Maddy loved to eat!! And she ate anything she could get her paws onto. We have lots of ferns and orchids at our place........ Maddy loved them! We cursed her a number of times when we discovered precious orchids eaten to the dirt. She also ate weeds, leaves, flowers, you name it, she ate it - you see, Swamp Wallabies are browsers, not grazers like kangaroos.
And she loved chips and coffee....... so we found out when we stupidly left them on the verandah floor and she helped herself! Swampies are true garbage gutses of the macropod kingdom!!
She was a very affectionate little thing, probably because she was a pet for so long and was so used to human company. She would spend several minutes grooming us, which I can tell you hurt like hell, especially when she started chewing to get rid of our fleas!
My job as a wildlife carer with a release site is to slowly turn a hand raised native animal into the wild animal it is. In Maddy's case it was hidden deep deep down at the time!
Any young animal craves affection and needs nurturing so we give them the cuddles they crave while they are little but slowly distance ourselves from them, allowing them more freedom to venture away from us.
Maddys release process took several months and went quite well, especially when compared to her macropod friend Sassy, who refused to acknowledge that she wasn't human!
She adapted quite well when we opened the back yard giving the macropods more space to jump in. Swamp Wallabies love to hide in thick bush and the back yard has lots of bushy shrubs to hide under. When coming home of an evening we always laughed to see Maddy dart out from under a bush, cluck hello to us and dart under another shrub.
Maddy turned into the wild wallaby she is much quicker than we actually expected. Todd and I took a short holiday, during which I had arranged for various fellow wildlife carers to feed and check in on the macropods. We'll never know what happened, but when we returned Maddy was a different wallaby. The affectionate joey had turned into a free spirited animal with a desire to be as far away from us as possible.
We were quite concerned initially as she seemed highly strung and we were sure that she had endured some kind of stressful situation for her to change so quickly. But the day after we returned we enticed her over with a cashew nut (her favourite treat!) and checked her out. She was happy and healthy, with not a mark on her. She allowed us a brief chance to tickle her under the chin, clucked at us and darted under the nearest bush.
A few days after that we decided to open up the paddock, so that the release area was increased from one acre to five. Although all the other macropods stuck around in their new home for a while, Maddy was off. She found the first hole in the fence that she could and jumped away without a backward glance.
For the first few weeks we saw her around but from a distance of a few metres - we weren't allowed too close. It's been quite some time since we've seen her, or so we think anyway - we have a few Swamp Wallabies about the same size on our property, so one of them may be her.
What a wonderful end to a story. From her horrid beginnings, to being kept as a pet in a small town yard, to being transferred to us, to being introduced to others of her species, to being a free, wild animal.
It can't get any better than that.