by Linda Dennis
The beautiful Wallaroo, Squilch
Squilch with her pinkie joey
Quil's first look at the world
A four legged joey?
Hardly, it's twins!
Squilch with both joeys in the pouch
Squilch with Quil in the pouch and Foob at heel
Squilch would often not let the joey back in the pouch
Todd gives Foob a cuddle
Foob being weighed not long after coming into care
Foob and Sassy hanging out
Bottle time for Foobie
Squilch and Quil on their own
Foob in her makeshift pouch
Foob in the front garden
Squilch during a visit with Foob
Sassy and Squilch, tolerating each other
Squilch and her third daughter, Uno
Foob, nearly a year after release
And we think this might just be Quil!
Some time ago now I raised and released a very beautiful Wallaroo named Squilch.
Nearly a year after Squilch was released at Fourth Crossing, during which time we rarely saw her, Squilch returned with a joey in the pouch.
We were in the middle of a pretty harsh drought and Squilch was doing it tough. She was skinny, you could see her ribs quite clearly, and her fur looked a bit drab.
As this was her first joey we figured she had returned home for some help from "mum and dad".
Over the next few days we got a glimpse of Squilch's joey or at least bits of it.... a tail here, a foot there. It was a wee little pinkie we estimated at being under 1kg, or around four months old.
What we couldn't work out at the time was why Squilch's pouch was so big for such a small joey. It took us several weeks to find out the reason why. At the time though we thought that maybe the joey was young but quite healthy and was bigger than it should be? Maybe that's why Squilch looked a bit gaunt, because the joey was taking most of the nutrient from Squilch's diet?
Squilch stayed close by our home for some time and we provided supplement food for her. She never strayed far away, but she was free to roam as she pleased.
We took great pleasure in witnessing her huge joey, or at least her pouch, grow and grow and grow. Squilch also put on weight and a sheen returned to her coat The support we were giving her was clearly doing good.
The first true glimpse we got of the joey was when it was very lightly furred. Finally a beautiful head emerged and took her first look around at the world. We named her Quil.
Still we scratched our heads and pondered on the size of the joey.
Remarkably, once the joey was lightly furred Squilch relaxed the muscles in her pouch and we got our first view inside her pouch. It finally clicked as to why the joey was so big. There wasn't just one - there were two!
Squilch seemed so proud to show us her babies. She allowed us on several occasions to open her pouch and tickle the chin of Quil and the "new" joey Foob - and to get a photo or two.
We took this as a great opportunity to study the joeys growth and development. It isn't often that a wildlife carer gets an opportunity like this, and we felt very privileged to be able to witness the joeys so closely and watch them grow.
Over the next few weeks Squilch seemed to become more and more laboured with the twins in the pouch. Her pouch started to drag along the ground and as there was little pouch room for two growing joeys, "bits" of them often protruded obscenely from the pouch opening. Squilch was often seen accidentally jumping on a joeys dragging foot or tail. I imagine it would have been quite painful for the joeys.
Wallaroo joeys fully emerge from the pouch at around three to three and a half kilograms. By this stage the twins were around two kilograms each, equaling four kilograms - normally well past the emerged weight.
At this stage the joeys started taking turns in spending time and being quite active out of the pouch, which is too normally too soon for increased activity. Interestingly, it was Foob that seemed to be out of the pouch more regularly than Quil (we had learnt to tell them apart by their slight differences). The soft pads on their feet weren't quite ready for such activity and looked red and sore. The out of pouch joey also seemed quite distressed at being out for such long periods and often cried and tried to get back in the pouch, which Squilch would not allow.
Oftentimes, when the out of pouch joey appeared very distressed we would pick it up and give it a cuddle for support. Both of the joeys had become accustomed to us and were used to our smells, although Foob was always more at ease with us then Quil was. A cuddle often settled the joey and afterwards we would help it back into the pouch.
One afternoon when the joeys were just over 2kg Squilch tried to get into our back yard, where we had raised her. At the time we were raising another mob of assorted macropods and Sassy, another Wallaroo, was one of them. Sassy and Squilch did not like each other and often had spats through the fence.
Because of this we were reluctant to let Squilch into the yard in case they ended up in a fight. However, Squilch was quite determined and seemed to get more and more distressed, so the gate was opened and in she jumped. All the macropods, including Sassy, some Eastern Grey Kangaroos, and a Swamp Wallaby all headed down the back to the dam. As evening fell Todd and I retired indoors and later to bed.
Around midnight we were woken by a loud commotion coming from beside the house. "Oh no" we thought, Squilch and Sassy were at it. We hightailed it outside to disperse the roo crowd only to come across one of the most distressing sights I have ever seen.
Sassy was no where in sight. The commotion we were witnessing was actually Squilch attacking Foob as she tried desperately to get back into the pouch where Quil was safe and snug. As Foob tried to edge near to Squilch her mother would lash out, both scratching and biting the terrified joey. Foob in her sheer fright had pee'd herself and seemed utterly confused and terrified by her mothers actions.
Todd rushed up and swooped Foob up in his arms and quickly handed her to me where I snuggled her close to my chest. Her heart was pounding hard and her eyes were as round as saucers.
Once Foob was away Squilch visibly settled and Todd stroked her head for a couple of minutes to soothe her further. When we thought that all was OK Todd took Foob and tried to return her to Squilch's pouch. Squilch reared aggressively and attacked Todd, this time lashing out with her hind legs, luckily Todd sustained no injuries but he was quite shocked as Squilch had never acted aggressively with us before. So, he again handed me Foob and I quickly located a makeshift pouch to put her in.
Once Foob was out of sight Squilch waited at the gate to be let out, which Todd did. As I settled Foob inside, Todd sat with Squilch for around 20 minutes, gave her some food and stroked her head. Squilch then hopped away into the bush, not to be seen again for a few days.
Apparently, we had been given Foob as she could no longer cope with the twins. It was a humbling moment for us - that Squilch trusted us to give us one of her joeys was an amazing feeling.
So, we set about raising Foob as an orphan, although Squilch did return to visit every so often. We didn't quite trust Squilch not to attack Foob again though so we only allowed them to touch noses now and then. Both seemed happy with the contact.
Foob and Sassy become good friends and oftentimes Sassy would lie next to Foob while she was in her makeshift pouch. They often "talked" to each other too and I was glad that I had another Wallaroo in care during Foob's time with us.
Some weeks down the track Squilch had an accident. She had ventured into our garage and somehow got a blind wrapped around her leg. Todd was outside at the time and told me how Squilch had exited the garage at high speed with the blind trailing behind. The noise and movement of the blind frightened Squilch and she was trying to escape the "predator". She took a huge leap over the water bore and as she flew sailed through the air the blind caught on the bore and Squilch crashed to the ground. Unfortunately, Quil kept on going and flew through the air and landed heavily some metres away.
Todd rushed to Quil and found her to unconscious. For a few moments he thought she was dead, but slowly she came around as he cradled her in his arms. Squilch by this time had become untangled and moved up to Todd and softly clucked at her joey. I had heard the commotion and was now at Todd's side. As Todd held the joey we saw that Squilch's actions were vastly different to the time she had rejected Foob.
What to do?
Quil was in a pretty bad way. We contemplated taking her into care and maybe replacing her with Foob. But as we watched Squilch and saw the maternal bond with her daughter we decided to let nature take its course and we put Quil back into Squilch's pouch. She hopped off into the bush and we hoped that all would be OK.
It was another week or so before we saw Squilch again and we were ecstatic to see that Quil had survived!
Although our elation didn't last long.
Over the next few days we witnessed Quil's highly erratic behaviour, sadly it appeared she had received brain damage in the fall.
Quil was still very small and was at the stage where she would be at mums side constantly. We were dismayed to often see the tiny joey disappear into the bush on her own. Squilch rarely followed.
Interestingly at about the same time that Quil received her brain injuries, Foob character changed dramatically. Where before she had been quite cuddly with both me and Todd, she also started acting strangely and hated Todd or I touching her. When we collected her to put her in her pouch she would hiss and kick out at us. We marveled at how the twins seemed to be psychically connected, albeit with a not so pleasant outcome.
More weeks passed and Foob and Quil grew. Although we didn't have the opportunity to weigh both of the twins we saw that they both grew at about the same rate.
Quil continued to be quite odd and Foob continued to hate us. Sadly, Quil finally disappeared from Squilch's side and we supposed that she had been taken by a fox or had met some other awful fate. We figured her to be too small to survive in the wild on her own.
Not long after Quil disappeared Squilch started to visit more and more often. She easily jumped into the front garden where we housed Foob along with her older buddy Sassy.
Each day Squilch would visit Foob and she had even mellowed enough to tolerate Sassy! The three of them became a little mob of their own.
As Foob grew, each time Squilch would leave the front garden - with an effortless jump over the fence - Foob would longingly look after her mum as she bounded into the bush. On several occasions Squilch would stop to see if Foob was following.
One day, several months after Squilch had entered our yard and given us her joey, we allowed Foob to go back to her mum.
As Squilch left the garden and turned to look at Foob, we opened the gate to allow Foob to follow. With tears in our eyes we watched as Foob followed her mother - without a backward glance - into the bush.
Mother and daughter were well and truly reunited.
Sassy was not long to follow. The three Wallaroos were returned to the bush, back where they belong.
We wondered what would happen next time Squilch had a joey. Would there be two? Would we go through the same situation again? What if we weren't around when if it happened again? What if one didn't make it?
We needn't have worried. The second time around, Squilch got it right. Her daughter, Uno, was one of a kind!
Nearly a year later we saw two Wallaroos, very close together, looking awfully similar in appearance - right down to the white stripes on the tips of their noses (just like Squilch had).
Quil was alive after all!
Although we couldn't too close enough to Quil as she was truly wild we're quite confident that it was her. We are so pleased that she was reunited with her sister Foob and her mother Squilch.
All three - and Sassy too - still live in the area today.