Monday, January 18, 2016

A Day of Joeys in Seattle

A Day of Joeys in Seattle by A Crafty Arab
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day here in the United States and the kids are off from school.

Since a holiday is always an excuse to study something new in our house, we met some Eastside and West Seattle friends at the Fall City Wallaby Ranch. We wanted to learn about Gray and Albino Bennetts Wallabies and Red Kangaroos. Fall City is about a half hour drive east of Seattle.

Our tour group consisted of four moms, one dad, and ten kids ranging in ages from eight to thirteen. We met early this morning on a cloudy day.

Our family was the earliest to arrive, so we spent a little time with a brown horse and some ponies on a neighboring property while looking down the sweeping Snoqualmie Valley. The river was not too full and a hawk was perched high up in a naked tree, waiting to pounce on his breakfast.

A Day of Joeys in Seattle by A Crafty Arab
Soon, the rest of our group arrived after figuring out the crazy gps instructions and Rex Paperd, owner of the Ranch, welcomed us by the small grey barn.  Before we went inside for our educational talk, he pointed out the small airstrip and airplane hangers in the valley. He explained that since moving out here almost 15 years ago, he and his wife, Tawny, have been buying up the land for the Ranch so that it is now in the shape of a kangaroo, with the airstrip as the tail and the barn where we are standing is the head.

He told us the story of how the Ranch started. He wanted an unusual pet for his wife but skunks weren't allowed as pets in Washington. After extensive research, a wallaby name Victoria's Secret, or Vicky, came into their life and it soon lead to all this. They are now one of the top breeders in the country and National Geographic recently used their facilities in a documentary.

They are a breeding farm, so they do sell to "surrogates" and there is a lengthy application on their website. Anyone can raise a wallaby as no special permits or licenses are needed in Washington.  (I wish my kids hadn't heard that part!)

We headed into the barn that was nicely laid out with chairs in front of a white screen. We each took our seats, and Rex turned off the lights and presented us with a slide show. He showed us the property from above, so we can see the kangaroo (it is really cool), and then the wallaby development cycle from birth to first hop, which takes 10 months.  A baby is called a Joey in Australia where these mammals primarily live.

The slide show was very informative with periodic comic intermissions, conveniently provided by the horse in the stall next to Rex, that kept the kids from squirming too much.

Once the show was over, we all had to agree to the rules before going to to see the marsupials.

The most important one was to not run up to them. Walk slowly and let them get used to you. All of them have been in the Paperd home since birth, were very well behaved and have been around humans their whole lives. They were used to tours and being taken to nursing homes, schools and other educational outings. However, no one likes to be surprised and macropods are no exception. The only difference was these guys and gals know how to kick! So the rule of not to run up to them was the most important to remember.

The second rule was to try to stay together so that they don't feel overwhelmed since we were a large group.

Everyone said yes and out into the "thank goodness we wore boots" fields we went!

We started with the smaller field first with the Grey and Albino Bennetts Wallabies. Rex handed the kids little pieces of bread so they could feed the wallabies. He rattled off all their names and gave each a hug or some sort of affectionate pat.  You can see these animals were very loved.  The below photo has a Grey Wallaby, then an Albino Wallaby with a Red Kanagroo in the back.

A Day of Joeys in Seattle by A Crafty Arab

We left the first field and went into a second to meet the Red Kangaroos, starting with the unpredictable Rocky, who was well close to 6 feet tall and weighed an easy 200 pounds.  But honestly he was just a big pushover that loved to have his belly and chin rubbed (note that grasp he has on my arm so I won't stop).
A Day of Joeys in Seattle by A Crafty Arab

In comparison, the wallabies that we had just left, which are smaller varieties of kangaroos, averaged 20 to 30 pounds and stood less than 3 feet tall.

We went around the field, being introduced to everyone.  Including the beautiful Vicky, who had lost an eye in an accident but was still lovely, and a few of the other females.

Rex opened a few pouches so the kids can see the various stages of Joeys growing inside. They got to see one tiny blob of red, eyeless and no bigger then a baseball. There was another too small for a few kids to make out.

They also got to see a Joey that was around 9 months old that Rex pulled out of one pouch. All legs and tail and hairless and squirmed up a storm to be pulled out in the cold, bright winter day.  It was quite the sight to see and the kids were amazed to be so close to a live Roo. Although she was not happy to be out on display and made sure Rex put her back in right away.

We stayed a little longer, to pet, rub, and love on these animals that were so much softer then you'd imagine. Then we thanked Rex for his tour, paid him of course, and washed up for birthday cupcakes for one of the kids, mine!

I have a feeling my daughter will remember this birthday for a very long time.

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