An orphaned baby wallaby is being hand-reared in a rucksack – and even travels strapped into his carer’s car seat.
The tiny four-month-old, named Riley, is being nurtured by wildlife carer Julia Stewart after his mum died of pneumonia.
She carries him in the furry rucksack strapped to her chest from 6.30am to 10.30pm every day – and then he sleeps on her bed.
Riley is allowed out of the pouch for an hour and a half a day to hop around with other wallabies at Studley Grange Butterfly World and Farm Park near Swindon, Wilts.
Julia, a mum-of-three, says she is growing attached to the cute joey and describes it as “like being pregnant all over again”.
He sleeps in the rucksack dangling from the headboard of her bed at home, is protected by her pet collie and even has a special spot in the passenger seat of her car.
Riley is fed every four hours and enjoys a diet of lactose-free milk, fruit, veg, a bit of grass and alfalfa, a nutritional plant.
Riley’s mum died on site two weeks ago and was discovered during the daily checks.
Wallabies, native to Australia and New Guinea, have a life span of 12 to 15 years and typically spend nine months in their mother’s pouch.
Julia said: “Riley’s mum passed away so we created the pouch to care for him.
“He had been cold all night and didn’t have any milk so we put him in a furry kids’ rucksack.
“He is strapped to me every day – and even sleeps in the pouch hanging from the headboard of my bed at home.
“I have to feed the chickens, parrots and dogs I keep at home and then take the dogs for a walk – Riley is with me in the pouch the whole time.
“In the car he hangs on the back of my headrest with a seat belt across him – and likes sticking his head out of the window to have a look around.
“At the centre, I care for a lot of animals so I have to keep him away from the otters, meerkats and raccoons.
“But when I’m with wallabies I let him hop around the pen so he knows he is a wallaby.
“He also has a play in the morning in the front garden of my home.
“My dogs love Riley too. My collie washes him and protects him – she worries if he goes out of sight.
“My Labrador watches him because he wants to play but I’ve told him Riley is too small to play.
“I’ll keep him in the pouch for at least three months because he is still very small and then we will integrate him with the six other wallabies at the centre – two of these are his siblings.
“I have grown attached to Riley because my three kids, who are aged between 18 and 25, are all grown up now.
“It’s like being pregnant all over again.”
Studley Grange Butterfly World and Farm Park has a butterfly house and zoo area including a giant tortoise, meerkats, otters and a raccoon.
It also features a farm park with geese, goats, pheasants, pigs, sheep and lambs.