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Werribee Open Range Zoo

Werribee Wallabies happy participants in healthcare

12 June 2019

While many humans are fussing about getting flu shots this winter, the Tammar Wallabies at Werribee Open Range Zoo are hopping happily towards their own healthcare.

Keepers at the zoo have taught the normally wary native animals not to be afraid of needles by desensitising them during health checks.

The marsupials’ carers can now administer any necessary injections without the need for restraint or stress for the Wallaby.   

The training is part of an approach to animal healthcare that has been introduced zoo-wide.

“Part of our commitment to animal welfare means empowering animals in their environment to be able to choose to interact and participate in their own healthcare, or not,” Werribee Zoo Animal Training Coordinator Kelly Hobbs said.

“Historically, this hasn’t been the case for many animals – particular native animals – but we believe they all deserve to be in control of their own environment, from the largest elephant to the smallest reptile.”

In recent footage of the Wallaby training, a keeper encourages the adorable animal over with nuts (their version of the doctor’s lollypop). The keeper then shows the Wallaby the syringe and then mimics the action of administering an injection in its side.

The training is having incredible results.

“We’ve recently had a lot of success, with a wallaby receiving multiple injections of antibiotics then still choosing to return to the keeper immediately afterwards and even letting the needle touch her again,” Ms Hobbs said.

“The wallaby learnt that the needle and injection leads to an outcome that is rewarding enough that it outweighs any discomfort it may feel.”

Visitors can visit the Tammar Wallabies at Werribee Open Range Zoo’s Australian Trail, where they may be lucky enough to witness the training firsthand.