By Maria McCann
Belfast Zoo has revealed a new arrival which was born before Christmas at the size of just a baked bean.
Kau Kau - the Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo has finally ‘hopped’ out of mum’s pouch to say hello to the public.
Belfast Zoo is home to the only mating pair in the UK and Ireland, although the marsupials are native to mountainous rainforests in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
Zoo curator, Andrew Hope, said “When the joey is first born it is the size of a jelly bean and remains in the pouch for eight to ten months so Belfast Zoo staff were unable to determine the sex of the joey immediately.
"When we started to see the joey peak out of her pouch, we began to affectionately refer to her as ‘wee spud’. We then named her Kau Kau, a Papua New Guinea word for ‘sweet potato’ which happens to be our tree kangaroo’s favourite food.
"Kau Kau is already proving to be quite a character and we hope that visitors to Belfast Zoo will enjoy seeing her first ventures outside of her pouch.”
Zoo manager, Alyn Cairns, is delighted with the new arrival, “Belfast Zoo is committed to the conservation of species in danger and we take part in a number of global and collaborative breeding programmes.
"While we are always delighted to welcome new arrivals, we are particularly pleased with the arrival of Kau Kau. Until this year Belfast Zoo was the only zoo in the United Kingdom and Ireland to care for Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo and we were the first in the UK to breed the species back in 2014.
"This species is listed as Endangered on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List as the population has dramatically declined in Papua New Guinea by at least 50% over the past three generations.
"The work of zoos is becoming ever more vital in ensuring the future survival of species, such as the Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo, and we are delighted to play an active role in the conservation efforts.”
Visitors can see Kau Kau and her family at Belfast Zoo. The Goodfellow’s tree kangaroos have a public feeding time daily at 11.15am. The zoo is open daily from 10am, last admission is at 5pm and the zoo closes at 7pm.
For more information visit www.belfastzoo.co.uk.