Ozark - the Australian Wildlife Carer's Information & Communications Network

Wed - Sep 06


By Kathryn Keen

This is the first Yellow-Bellied Glider that has been bred at Taronga Zoo. ?The mother is called Barby, and is actually one that I cared for in 2002, after she had been found hanging on barbed wire. ?Barby had multiple tear injuries and puncture wounds, mainly to the patagium, legs and lower body, and tail area. ?She was covered in maggots, and going by the size of the maggots it could be seen that she had been there for a few days before anyone had noticed her.

As any wildlife carer knows, maggot removal is one of the most unpleasant things to have to do, though it is necessary to get them out! This poor animal also had maggots trapped inside the two layers of the torn patagium (gliding membrane), which had then rolled in upon itself, effectively sealing them in. ?She was a very sick girl when I took her into care; suffering from severe shock and dehydration, as well as the various fly-blown injuries. Dr Jim Phelan operated on her, but we'd needed to wait a few days whilst I gave her the initial intensive care - dealing wih the shock and dehydration first - because it was felt that she would likely die if given anesthetic to be operated on at that time, when she was barely clinging onto life. It took a great deal of care, effort and time to get her to the point where she was holding her own; to where I felt that she would actually survive. But it was worth it!

As you can see here, Barby did survive, and she recovered well. Since she was unable to be released, (due to patagium injuries which would mean she would be unable to glide properly), she was transferred to Taronga Zoo when she had recovered enough to be able to safely travel down to Sydney. She was quarantined in the VQC, and was placed in a breeding program once fully recovered.

In the breeding program, Barby was placed with Braydon, a male from Healesville Sanctuary. The two were left together by themselves, rather than being in a group. They were given a fairly "hands-off" approach to minimise any stress and enable them to be more relaxed. The result is this gorgeous little juvenile female in the photos.

Yellow bellied gliders are a vulnerable species, and are fast losing habitat through urban sprawl and ongoing proliferation of development in many areas. They need large trees with hollows and are specialised feeders. Destruction and fragmentation of their habitat is an ongoing serious threat to their survival. These animals are one of the most magnificent and fascinating marsupials, and we need to treasure and protect them, by lobbying to protect their habitat wherever possible.

Photos by Wendy Gleen, courtesy of Taronga Zoo

Postscript: Barby has continued to successfully breed, and at last count has had five joeys
in the captive breeding recovery program

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