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Transporting marsupials

There are many schools of thought when it comes to the safe transporting of an animal. Try to take into account a number of important, factors when choosing your mode of transport.

●    How many animals are you transporting
●    How big is the animal
●    How far is the animal traveling
●    What time of day will the animal be traveling
●    Will there be other objects in or around the animal during transit


You must think of the animal’s safety at all times. It is no good putting the animal in a soft calico bag if they are likely to get squashed by  falling objects or by sliding around a vehicle. Take the time to look closely at the method of transportation being used and ascertain what will be the best method of holding. Pet-packs come in a range of sizes and colours (not that colour will impact on the animal but some people are very colour conscious!) and they will vary in price a great deal. Most pet stores and some veterinary practices will carry a limited range and there are also a number of different styles to choose from. It could be argued as to which is the best type.  As long the door closes securely, and any holes are not too large that the animal may escape through, they will do the job very well. If you are using an old pet-pack, check for any signs of wear and tear on the screws and door or for any signs of fatigue on the plastic shell. This will ensure that it is not likely to fall apart during transit. Any style of commercial pet pack will generally be accepted by airlines and transport companies although they do get a little worried about the transportation of anything that is not a dog or a cat! Tip: Attached an old piece of hessian sacking or other heavy material over the door. This provides the animal with a little more privacy. Another good idea is to put the animal inside a calico bag before placing in the pet pack.

Supply the animal with plenty of straw or bedding material (clean of course!) to help make the transportation more comfortable for the animal and to give it some privacy. A word of caution about straw. If you are sending an animal Interstate check that the receiving state will allow the importation of plant materials – some are VERY strict in this regard! A good substitute is strips of newspaper.

Resist the temptation to supply food during transit. Firstly, if the journey is long the food may become rancid and could cause gut problems when eaten. Secondly, if food is supplied and the animal is going to a new home, the animals’ appetite will not be reflected accurately and could cause some stress for the new owner when the animal does not touch their food.  Thirdly, most animals, during transit, will not eat anyway.  If you are sending your animal to a new home, try and supply some form of diet sheet which outlines what you have been feeding that animal during its time in your care. It will serve as a good starting point for the new owner in trying to settle the animal into its new home.  If traveling by car be sure to remember not to leave the vehicle unattended for any prolonged periods during the day and most importantly, during the hottest part of the day say between 11am and 3pm – even if you do have air conditioning. This may sound ridiculously simply and you are probably thinking “…goes without saying...” but people do do these sorts of things.
Try and support the pet-pack by placing on the floor of your vehicle behind the driver’s seat  etc. If you have to put it on the seat then secure it with the seatbelt. If putting in the wagon section of the vehicle then try to wedge it with a rug or some old towels to reduce slippage around the car. A cargo barrier is always good – not only to reduce to space around the animal but to also safe- guard any passengers, and in particular the driver!

When your animal has been safely delivered to its new location, don’t try to forcibly remove the animal from the pet pack. Instead, open the door, remove some (but not all) the bedding and leave it well alone for an hour or two. Place some food outside – and wait. There are new noises, smells, layout, and roommates with which to become familiarized before he/she will even consider “stepping out”. You may wish to leave the travel pack in the cage overnight as some- where for the animal to sleep.  The safe transportation of animals is essential for their longevity and well-being. Don’t be  hasty in your actions – take time to think things through and you will find that there is nothing complex involved.  All it needs is a little practice and patience.

Kangaroos, Wallabies. 
Kangaroo joeys would be by far one of the easiest of critters to move from place to place if they are still pouch bound. It is quite simply a matter of picking up the animal in its bag or pouch and off you go and, provided you are there at feed time, it is highly unlikely it, or you, will suffer any adverse consequences. Even an ‘at foot’ joey, provided it has been hand raised by you and you are moving with it, should present no problem. Again it is simply a matter of picking up the animal and popping into a large bag or sack and then sitting it on your lap during the transportation phase. If you are unable to do this, the next best way would be to hang the bag (complete with animal) from a hook within the vehicle so that it is hanging as if in mums pouch. Most, if not all vehicles these days, are equipped with a coat hanger hook inside the back door, usually behind the driver, which suits this purpose admirably. Once ensconced in the bag the animal will settle down and will rarely give you cause for concern.

 have transported two Eastern Grey ‘at foot’ joeys in this manner quite successfully, hanging in the back of a car for a two and a half hour journey.A word of caution – if you are using the hanging bag method (and to some extent for your lap if using the ‘sitting on the lap method’) these animals will be under, at least some stress and are likely to lose bladder control, so be prepared and make provision to alleviate the ensuing mess.

If, on the other hand we are going to transport adult kangaroos, the picture changes quite dramatically. If you can avoid moving them at all, then please do so – it is by far the best solution to this problem – easy to say – maybe not so easy to do. These are difficult animals to move, an event to which many people will attest and especially over long distances.
As a general rule a high percentage of adult ‘roos that are moved will be dead within eighteen months (maybe even up to a couple of years) of the move. The reasons for this are many and varied but basically they all succumb to a condition known as myopathy which in layman’s terms is a severe form of stress.

However, having said that, many adult ‘roos can be moved without incident and I believe that there are three main factors in the success of such an operation. First, the temperament of the individual animal; second, the owner or carer of the animal should move with them and third, but by no means least, that the geography of the location from which the animal is taken, compared with that of where it is going to go, should be of a similar size and characteristics. I will give you an example of what I mean.

Some years ago we moved seventeen adult ‘roos, three Euros (or Wallaroos) (Macropus.robustus), seven Western Greys (M. fuliginosus), and seven Reds (M. rufus) from an area that they had been used to since they were small, some for as long as eleven or so years. They had all been hand-raised and brought up in that particular location which was a small acre- age in the Adelaide Hills. They were transported to a location about one and a half hours drive away that was of similar size (and I said earlier I think this is part of the key to success), although somewhat different in characteristics, and we also moved with them (another part of the key). Some handled it well, some not so well.

I must be honest and say that we did have problems catching the last three to be transported because they were starting to get jumpy (no pun intended), wondering where all their ‘mates’ had gone. They were transported in a totally enclosed box trailer, two or three at a time. They  were all drugged before the move by intramuscular injection with an anesthetic. This was supplied by our Vet. As most of our animals were handleable it was not too difficult to do this, apart from the last three who had to be darted. We called in our veterinarian to do this job and the whole exercise turned out to be quite a traumatic afternoon (but that is another story). The beauty of this drug is that if you administer the correct dosage the animal should not be unconscious but just a bit dopey. What you are trying to achieve is for the animal to remain standing during the journey – if they are allowed to lie unconscious or semiconscious for long periods of time there is a danger of fluid build up in the lungs with unpleasant consequences.

As I may have mentioned before, we moved seventeen adult ‘roos in this way and over the following two years we lost (as in died) four animals under what I can only describe  as ‘suspicious circumstances’. One of these was taken to the vet in a state of great distress and was diagnosed with a very severe case of myopathy and was euthanased. The other three died before we had realised there was anything wrong, which, unfortunately, is a typical symptom of myopathy. These types of animals very rarely exhibit pain or distress until the problem is so severe that it is more often than not, irreversible. To make matters worse they are also generally silent – they generally do not cry out in pain.

Another method of moving adult ‘roos or wallabies that I have seen used with very good results, is to place each individual animal into a specially designed crate. This is in the form of a rectangular wooden box with air holes around the top and a slide door both ends and only just wide enough for the animal to stand (again, you are trying to avoid the animal lying down in a semiconscious state for long periods of time).

I have seen wild caught kangaroos moved from South Australia to Victoria by road in this manner, and only a week after the move the animals concerned were eating out of the owner’s hands. Sounds almost too good to be true doesn’t it, although I have to admit they were Kangaroo Island Kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus fuliginosus), which have the reputation of being the most lay back of all the kangaroo species.

Brushtail and Ringtail Possums and Small Macropods. 
There are many ways of transporting possums and some of the smaller marsupials. A simple small ‘pet pack’ as used for a cat or small dog would be one of the best but please make sure the pet pack has solid sides or at least some form of covering to ensure the animal cannot be disturbed during its journey.  This will also ensure it has a feeling of security.

A method I have used for interstate road journeys which have involved an overnight stay en route was to use a large pet pack, rather than a small one, and drilled a few small holes in the top through which I threaded some galvanised wire and stitched an old hessian sack to hang down inside like a curtain about two-thirds back from the door. This enabled the possum to have somewhere to hide and gave it a feeling of security.

It also enabled us to put food and water inside the pet pack without disturbing the animal and, being a large pet pack, there was a bit of room for animal to move around at night. For this type of animal there should be a decent layer of straw or newspaper on the floor of the pet pack simply for hygiene purposes.