Parents who host even small sleepovers for their children are truly unsung heroes. They endure all-night gigglefests, stealthy trips to the 'fridge, and the occasional teary home-sick child (whose family lives two houses down.) But let me tell you the story of a Red Kangaroo named May: one of the most generous moms I’ve ever met.
May Roo is one of many new marsupial mamas at Walkabout Way’s Kangaloom. The moms have a behind-the-scenes nursery where they can peacefully raise their young. This is especially important because marsupial babies are born fragile; far less developed than most mammals. When born, a kangaroo baby, or “joey” is about the size of a jelly bean.
The tiny joey must climb down the birth canal and up into their mother’s pouch (a trip that can take up to ten minutes.) Once inside the pouch, the joey finds warmth & protection; a special place to eat and grow strong.
Over time, the joey will peek its head out to see the world, then climb out of the pouch to explore (sticking close by mom’s side in case of danger.) The joey will use mom’s pouch as “home base” over the next 8-9 months. Here’s where May Roo’s story begins.
In the mob of marsupial mamas, each kangaroo has a joey. However, Suzy Roo’s joey seems to be having a permanent sleepover in May Roo’s pouch (which is now HUGE because of the TWO growing joeys inside!)
Kangaloom keepers initially tried to convince the second joey to go back home to Suzy Roo, but every time they turned around, it was back in May Roo’s pouch! Keepers think that Suzy Roo stopped producing milk, and that May Roo took on the second joey as a surrogate (something very special that would be far less likely to occur in nature.)
As joeys become healthy, strong, and brave, they and their mothers move out of the behind-the-scenes nursery and into their own enclosure in guest view. After months of being able to watch these amazing animals develop, Busch Gardens’ zookeepers are excited to be able to share them with you. The next time you’re at Busch Gardens, make sure you visit Walkabout Way’s Kangaloom* (which is open even later with the arrival of Summer Nights!)
(And the next time your child asks to have a sleepover, remember the story of May Roo, and be thankful you don’t have to carry around your young guests all night long!)
*While Walkabout Way is open to guests of all ages, Kangaloom is open to guests age 5 and older. Guests age 5 and under are invited to stop by the Tuckerbox (at the entry to Kangaloom) for duck food!