Increase in orphaned joeys as drought results in roadkill rise

RESCUERS: Shay and Tracey Bartram with the four orphaned joeys currently in their care - Muriel (in Shay's arms), Millie, Stinky and Axle.
RESCUERS: Shay and Tracey Bartram with the four orphaned joeys currently in their care - Muriel (in Shay's arms), Millie, Stinky and Axle.

As the drought continues, more and more hungry kangaroos are grazing dangerously close to roadways and this desperate search of food has resulted in an increase in roadkill and, in turn, a rise in the number of joeys left abandoned in their mothers' pouches.

This is a scenario mother-daughter carers Tracey and Shay Bartram are all too familiar with.

They currently have four joeys in their care - the most they've had at any one time in the years they've taken in the orphaned wildlife.

"It's definitely a result of the drought," Tracey said of the high number of rescued joeys.

"They're coming to the road for fresh pick and getting hit.

"I know half the time [the kangaroos] hit the car and it can't be helped, but I just want to encourage people to stop and check for a joey in a female's pouch. You can usually see if there's something there."

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The eldest of the four joeys currently being reared by the Bartrams, Stinky, was in his mother's pouch for three days before Ms Bartram pulled him out.

"That's why we call him Stinky," she laughed.

"I drove past and looked but was sure the baby was dead. Three days later he poked his head out and I thought, 'I better go back and get him'."

Twelve-month-old Axle was rescued by Ms Bartram's other daughter Holly as a 'pinkie'.

"He was as big as your hand," Ms Bartram said.

"It's the first time I've reared a pinkie. The main thing is, you've got to keep them warm."

The other two joeys, Millie (who is a bit over a year old) and the most recent addition Muriel (who is just six months old) were brought to them by other people.

Muriel still needs to be bottle-fed four times a day and spends much of her time wrapped in a blanket in Shay's arms to keep warm, while the other three are content hopping and grazing around the Bartram's two-acre yard at Pallamallawa.

Six-month-old Muriel sucking on one of her toes. She still has to be bottle-fed four times a day.

Six-month-old Muriel sucking on one of her toes. She still has to be bottle-fed four times a day.

"They are a big job," Ms Bartram said.

"We've got to take Muriel with us if we go to town."

Caring for orphaned joeys is second nature to Ms Bartram, who grew up doing it and a love of animals has seen her continue.

"My mum used to do it," she said.

"We'd rear them and let them go, and I picked up the knack. It's also good for Shay, who's got a bit of autism. It's a real interest for her."

Over the years, Ms Bartram has reared about 20 joeys and said she usually lets them go back into the wild when they're about 18 months to two years old.

"I just open the gate and try and make them go out to the Rec grounds," she said.

"They do go when they're ready. It is tough to see them go. I'm really going to miss this fella [pointing to Axle] because I've had him so long."

For now though, the four joeys are content in the Bartrams' backyard, living cohesively among their managerie of other animals, which includes three dogs, two rescue cats (one kitten), three Shetland ponies, a horse, roosters and a duck.