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Devastating story behind heartwarming photos of rescued joey

The baby kangaroo was saved from its dead mother's pouch, but its fight to survive isn't over yet.

With a bundled up baby kangaroo in his arms, five-year-old Jye looks like the most adorable wildlife warrior.

Along with his parents and older brother Brax, the family had just rescued a tiny joey from the pouch of its mother who had unfortunately died along the side of the road in northeastern Victoria.

“They were on their way home from Benalla on Sunday when they pulled over and it was their oldest son who noticed that the kangaroo — who had been hit, killed and left on the road — had a joey moving in its pouch,” Kylee Donkers from the Dutch Thunder Wildlife Shelter in Koonoomoo told Yahoo News.

Five-year-old Jye holding the joey in a bag (left), handing it over to Kylee (middle) and a close-up of the joey.
Five-year-old Jye was on standby to hand the tiny joey over to Kylee Donkers from the Dutch Thunder Wildlife Shelter in Koonoomoo, Victoria. Source: Supplied

Knowing what to do, the family fetched the baby and brought it to Donkers, who’s been caring for local animals for the past 15 years.

Roo's fight to survive

Without the family’s bravery in picking up the tiny creature, the wildlife rescuer said the joey would “absolutely not” have survived.

Because at about 150 days old — which seems like a lot until you remember that a kangaroo is born the size of a jelly bean — the little roo weighs just 500 grams.

“It's what we call a pinky because it doesn't have any fur and at this stage of its life it can't regulate its own body temperature,” she said. “Quite often when a kangaroo is hit, the joey is thrown from the pouch. Had this one been thrown from the pouch, it probably would have died quite quickly from the elements because it would have lost body temperature and literally frozen to death."

Fortunately, this little one was kept warm within the safety of its mother’s pouch, however, it would only have survived a few days before the weather, or lack of food, got to it.

Luckily, Jye and Brax’s parents jumped into action. But the fight for life isn’t over just yet.

A close-up of the joey (left) and the joey being bottle fed (right).
Kylee says the joey has a 50 per cent chance of survival but that she is doing everything in her power to keep it alive. Source: Supplied

“The joey has a lot of bruising, a lot of scratches and he's actually missing the end of his tail,” Donkers explained. “We don't know whether that happened in the accident or whether a predator, such as a fox, has tried to get him out of the pouch and pulled the end of the tail off.”

But the biggest issue is that the tiny roo is still so young.

“I am doing absolutely everything in my power to give him the best chance at life, but his chances of survival are low,” the wildlife rescuer said. “His lungs and his brain and everything are still in the development stage. So no matter what we do, he's probably realistically got less than a 50 per cent chance of survival at this size.”

In fact, Donkers was even forced to consider whether or not she should treat the joey.

“He was one that I had to weigh up whether to give him a go or whether to euthanise him because of his injuries,” she said. “Because he's not my only animal in care. Like just sitting here in the lounge room, I have an owl, blue tongue lizards, bearded dragons and another nine eastern grey kangaroos. And that's just in my lounge room.”

For now, Donkers, who is a “100 per cent full time volunteer” and doesn’t work because she is “so busy with the animals”, will continue to look after the joey around the clock.

Kylee Donkers with a kangaroo (left) and kissing a kangaroo (right).
Kylee Donkers from the Dutch Thunder Wildlife Shelter has spent 15 years looking after wildlife. Source: Supplied

“He's getting 10ml of a specialised kangaroo milk formula, which costs approximately $500 a bag so it's not cheap,” she said. “He gets that feed every four hours which is currently taking approximately half an hour. And then because he's so young that he can't go to the toilet himself, you actually have to manually toilet them as well. So the whole feed process takes approximately an hour, and then that's done every four hours.

“We turn around and we pretend we’re tough and we pretend we don't get attached but, I'm literally living and breathing this little guy at the moment so of course I’m attached.”

Advice for motorists checking on kangaroos

While the joey fights for life, Donkers said it's a timely reminder of why it's so important for drivers to check on kangaroos found on the side of the road.

“We always say, if people hit an animal or see an animal on the road and it's injured, to call for help,” she said.

“So find out who your local wildlife rescue group is and save their number in your phone, and if you look at an animal and you get that gut feeling that something just isn't quite right, ring it in. We would much rather have a conversation over the phone or go out and check an animal, than people not call it in and then days go by and that animal suffers.”

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