Amanda Dukart is a new mother—but her baby is fuzzier than most infants. According to ABC News, the zookeeper and animal trainer at the Chahinkapa Zoo in Wahpeton, North Dakota, is raising a 4-month-old orphaned baby kangaroo named Barkly.
Barkly’s mom unexpectedly died earlier this month—a dangerous predicament for a baby kangaroo. Since joeys only gestate in their mothers’ wombs for about a month, they’re underdeveloped when they’re born. The tiny, hairless animals need to snuggle inside their mothers' pouches 24/7 until they’re done growing. At this stage in their lives, joeys only have a 1 in 4 chance of survival.
Barkly needed a surrogate mama, but the zoo’s other kangaroos had their own babies. Since zookeepers weren’t sure if other marsupials could serve as surrogates, Dukart stepped in to save the day. “At 3:00 I got a call saying, 'Come down and grab your baby.' So that's when I became a mom," Dukart told The Grand Forks Herald.
For the next six months, Dukart will carry Barkly on her hip, swaddled in a pouch and sling made from soft fabric. In 10 months, Barkly will start leaving the cozy pouch, and when she reaches 18 months she’ll be weaned off it entirely. Next year, she’ll join the zoo’s kangaroo exhibit, the Herald reports.
Until then, Dukart is having fun watching Baby Barkly grow up. "Every day is something different," she told the Herald. "And she's getting personality. It's just really fun. It's a really cool experience."
Watch Dukart and Barkly in action in the video above, courtesy of ABC News.
[h/t ABC News]
Header image courtesy of iStock.