Like all marsupials, koalas give birth to tiny, underdeveloped young called ‘joeys’. Born with no fur, underdeveloped eyes and ears, and only tiny nubs for back legs, a koala joey starts out looking more like a pink jelly bean than the adorable fur-balls we know and love. Marsupials differ from other mammals in that their young are born essentially as a foetus and complete their development in the pouch rather than the womb. Once a koala joey has successfully climbed into the pouch it must then attach to one of two teats and begin feeding on milk. If all goes to plan, the joey will call the pouch home for the next 6 months or so as it continues to develop in the snug safety of this special pocket.
Now meet Hermit. At nearly two years old, he is a curious and gregarious boy who loves to explore and holds a special place in the hearts of his keepers. At first glance Hermit might look like any other koala at Lone Pine, however his story is anything but ordinary.
A Life-Saving Decision
At the time that Hermit was born, his mother, Zoom, had begun to experience some health complications that raised concerns for both her health and that of her new bub. Our team of keepers and hospital staff came to the conclusion that remaining in Zoom’s pouch would present too high of a risk for both mum and joey, and so the decision was made to undertake the delicate task of moving Hermit into a more suitable pouch in order to give both koalas the best chances of success.
"At two days old, measuring less than 2cm and weighing less than a gram, Hermit's adventure began."
He was very delicately removed from his mum’s teat and placed into the pouch of his ‘surrogate’ mother, Crumble. Thankfully, after a period of uncertainty that kept the vet and keeper team on the edges of their seats, Hermit successfully latched onto a teat and settled into his new home. After the team felt certain that he was out of the woods and would thrive on his own he was given the name ‘Hermit’ because he had moved from one home to another, just like a hermit crab.
From Pouch to Perfection
Looking at Hermit now it’s hard to imagine what an amazing journey this little koala has been on. Pouch transfers such as Hermit’s are very rare and can be risky, however thanks to careful intervention from our dedicated team of professionals Hermit has been given the best chance at a normal, happy life.