Waimate wallaby orphanage

Handraising orphans since 1977

ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 06/12/2013
Gwen Dempster-Schouten
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ
FAMILY: Gwen Dempster-Schouten tends orphaned wallabies.

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Like a concerned mother, Waimate wallaby park owner Gwen Dempster-Schouten tends joeys orphaned mostly by hunters.

Three-hourly feeds keep her awake as she nurtures three of the babies which all have distinct personalities. They are from different families and have specially designed nutrition because they are lactose intolerant.

Part of her role is teaching them toilet training so when visitors come to the EnkleDooVery Korna wallaby park they will not soil their clothes when they cuddle them.

Ms Dempster-Schouten looks after about 80 wallabies which are almost all adults.

She started handraising the orphans in 1977 but only opened the park to the public in 1999.

"The entry fee helps pay for their food," she said.

Naming her "babies" is usually related to an event or person visiting.

One wallaby had been named, Miracle, and some German visitors misheard and thought Ms Dempster-Schouten had said "come and see Angela Merkel".

They were most disappointed when they were introduced to a wallaby not their country's chancellor.

One recent addition to her "family" is not an orphan and is still living in its mother's pouch.

The young ones are usually weaned at 15 months of age. Until then Ms Dempster-Schouten doesn't feel she knows the newcomer well enough to name it.

"Something will happen which will be just right for its name," she said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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