The patter of potoroo paws
Tuesday 26 April 2005
One of London Zoo’s long nosed potoroos has a baby developing in her pouch
This tiny marsupial is just over 30cm tall and like her larger cousin the kangaroo she carries her baby in a pouch on her belly.
Our long nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus), also known as a ‘rat kangaroo’, recently gave birth, after a pregnancy of just over a month, to a tiny, undeveloped baby. The keepers have described this tiny 15mm roo as looking like a small, hairless, pink bean! The baby itself, immediately crawled up into its mother's pouch and attached itself to a teat from which it now gets its milk. It is difficult to know when this journey took place exactly, but the baby will remain in the pouch until it is four months old.
At this point, the roo will begin to leave the pouch for longer and longer periods until eventually it will be too big to clamber back in! Female potoroos generally give birth once or twice each year and this is the second offspring for this female since her arrival at London Zoo. In total, we have two pairs of potoroos living at the Zoo.
Potoroos have long snouts and brownish grey fur with a long, semi-prehensile tail which means they can grip vegetation for activities such as nest building. When they hop, just like a kangaroo, they use their large, flat back feet and tuck their front feet into their chests, using their tails for extra balance.
Like most other marsupials, the long-nosed potoroo comes only from Australia and Tasmania. Potoroos are nocturnal, so London Zoo’s group live in Moonlight World, within our Small Mammal House. In the wild, they live in the forests or shrubland of Southeastern Australia and Tasmania, in areas of thick ground plants, where they can build their nests.
In the wild, potoroos are preyed on by owls and other birds of prey, and by feral cats and dogs. In the past, people sometimes hunted them for food, but they are now a protected species.
The Potoroo is listed by The IUCN as Vulnerable, so the successful breeding of this species at London Zoo is an important contribution to the captive breeding programme set up to protect them.