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This is THE Christmas heart-squeeze story of the season!

An orphan baby Potoroo enjoys Christmas cheer after being rescued by Aussie Ark! The baby Potoroo was discovered by Aussie Ark staff after being abandoned by its mother in the Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary. 

At just 4 months old, the young male would be totally dependent on its mother in the wild for sustenance and protection. Surrogate Mum is Aussie Ark Manager of Conservation Hayley Shute, who is hand-raising the youngster at her Central Coast home with the help of her young daughters.

“It’s our Christmas miracle,” said Ms Shute. “I can’t tell you how incredibly cute this little guy is. He needs round-the-clock care, hand-feeding via tiny milk bottles, and help with exercise. I’m thankful to have my two nature-loving daughters to help out!”

11 year old Isla and 7 year old Indi are used to life with wildlife. Award-winning Mum Hayley Shute has worked for Aussie Ark for over a decade, and is one of Australia’s most experienced wildlife carers.

“Mum’s hand-raised nine koala joeys,” said Isla proudly. “And we’re always talking about stuff around the dinner table that other families wouldn’t ever do! We talk about how long feet and teeth are. We even talk about poo!” 

“But this is our very first potoroo!” said Indi. “Santa came early!”

The joey joined the Shute family in the lead-up to Christmas. Surrounded by wrapped presents, tinsel and twinkling lights – and rocked to sleep by Christmas jingles – the young animal couldn’t be happier.

“He’s steadily putting on weight, and we’ll start introducing solid food soon,” Ms Shute said.  “But the main medicine has been care and love. He needed to trust us to thrive.” 

The joey rescue is made even more special considering the ecological status of the animal. Long-nosed Potoroos are ancient cousins of the kangaroo, and a living fossil. They play a vital role as ‘ecological engineer’ in the Australian bush, turning over leaf-litter as they forage. Once widespread throughout Australia, they have been decimated by feral cats and foxes and are now listed as vulnerable.

“Aussie Ark is a world-leader in breeding and rewilding this species,” said Ms Shute. “Without our help the Long-nosed Potoroo could easily tip into extinction. So it’s a huge responsibility, as well as a huge joy, ensuring the survival of this joey.” 

When surrogacy is over and the joey has matured, he will be released into the Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary. 

“He will finally have a chance to bond and be with his own kind,” said Ms Shute. “Who knows, maybe we’ll spot him out there in the wild next Christmas!” 

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