Nebraska zoos integral to global conservation efforts | netnebraska.org

By Ryan Robertson, Producer/Reporter, NET News | May 22, 2015

A Matschie’s tree kangaroo moves around its enclosure at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, NET News)

It’s believed there are more than eight and a half million species of life on earth. On average, around 200 of those go extinct every 24 hours. Scientists from two Nebraska zoos say that loss of life is unacceptable.

While on a field trip from school, about a dozen first grade students gathered around the Matschie’s tree kangaroo exhibit at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. It was feeding time for Milla and her joey, Collins. The children laughed loudly and screamed with excitement. It didn’t sound like an ideal place to raise a baby, but on the other side of the glass, it was as peaceful as any nursery. A mother and child stretched after their nap, and began eating lunch.

At the same time, head zookeeper Davi Ann Norsworthy checked each of the marsupial’s pouches, in what I’m told was a rare show of trust for tree kangaroos. (To see video of the Matschie’s tree kangaroo, click here)

“You just cannot help to not fall in love with them.  They are just amazing. It’s hard sometimes to see that just looking at them, but once you work with them and especially with Milla and everything that she’s been able to do, I just fell in love,” Norsworthy said.

Milla the momma

There are about 50 Matschie’s tree kangaroos—or tree roos–in the U.S. Milla is mother to seven of them. Indigenous to Papua New Guinea, the 13-year-old tree roo came to the Children’s Zoo when she was just 18 months old.

Her successful breeding has helped turn the seven-and-a-half acre zoo into one of the premiere research sites for tree roos in the world. Milla was the first of her species documented to have twins, which Norsworthy monitored from inside the pouch.

“I’ve been able to document birth all the way until when [the joey] was popping its head out of the pouch, in the pouch, which has never been done before. She’s been very willing to let me do that, which is very unique to her species,” Norsworthy said.

However, not every species that needs saving is as cute and cuddly as a tree kangaroo.

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Source: Nebraska zoos integral to global conservation efforts | netnebraska.org