A DEDICATED Dudley Zoo keeper has stepped in to become a surrogate mum to a young joey who was left motherless.

Staff at Dudley Zoo and Castle leapt into action after a female Bennett’s wallaby died while nursing a young joey in her pouch.

Senior Keeper Laura Robbins has now stepped in to provide round-the-clock care for four-month-old male Barney and even takes the joey home to look after.

Dudley News:

Laura, said: “Barney was fully furred but was very tiny.

“We’ve never hand reared a wallaby before, but we’ve had lots of helpful advice from Longleat Safari Park and he’s gaining weight really well, so we’re very pleased.”

Barney is currently receiving four daily feeds of high fat puppy replacement milk and is spending his days onsite in the zoo offices, while the rest of the time is spent with Laura and her young family at their home.

She is also replicating the experience of a pouch by letting Barney hop in and out of a rucksack.

Mum-of-three Laura said: “My children think he’s wonderful. He’s developing quite a personality and is so lovely. I think as a mum you have an instinct to mother anything and he is like my fourth child.

“At this age he would still be spending lots of time in his mum’s pouch, so we’re trying to replicate that behaviour as much as possible with a rucksack, which we hang up and he hops in and out of.”

Dudley News:

Barney will spend the next four months with Laura but it is hoped he will be able to return to Wallaby Walkthrough in the near future.

In preparation, Laura will begin weaning him onto solid foods, such as browse, hay and dandelions and will also start integrating him with the other wallabies at the Castle Hill zoo so he can start observing their behaviours before he moves back in full time.

Richard Brown, Dudley Zoo and Castle curator, said: “Without urgent intervention from our keeping team, we would have lost Barney alongside his mum.

“Thanks to Laura’s dedication he’s making terrific progress and it’s wonderful to have such a happy outcome from a sad loss.”