Joey survives paused wallaby pregnancy

·1-min read

Rangers at a NSW conservation sanctuary have been surprised by the appearance of a brush-tailed rock-wallaby after the mother hit pause on her pregnancy.

The joey was conceived in October at Aussie Ark's wildlife sanctuary in the Barrington Tops but curator Kelly Davis says its mother apparently paused her pregnancy for five months.

"And then a few months later picked up right where she left off. That was so incredible," Ms Davis said on Tuesday.

The process is called embryonic diapause, when development of the embryo is suspended to ensure the survival of the joey.

Rangers believe the mother underwent the evolutionary strategy to finish rearing a joey she already had in her pouch.

"It's really quite spectacular what nature can do," Ms Davis said.

The tiny wallaby is thought to be at around four months' development.

Curators were shocked when they noticed the distinguishable bulge of a joey in the female, knowing the only opportunity she had to mate was last year.

"It is the first time I have witnessed first-hand this incredible process," Ms Davis said.

"It really shows the incredible tenacity and survival instincts of wild animals."

Aussie Ark established the first breeding program for the species in 2018 and doubled its capacity after the 2019-20 bushfire season, which annihilated much of the wallabies' habitat.

The population of wild brush-tailed rock-wallabies is in decline - with fewer than 20,000 left in the wild.