Detroit Zoo calls off search for missing 5-month-old wallaby

Officials don’t believe wallaby joey is still alive after going missing on May 8

Wallaby and joey at Detroit Zoo. (Patti Truesdell) (Detroit Zoo/Patti Truesdell)

ROYAL OAK, Mich. – Officials are calling off the search for a 5-month-old wallaby that went missing from the Detroit Zoo just days after the zoo announced its arrival.

A baby wallaby, known as a “joey,” was found to be missing from the Australian Outback Adventure habitat at the Detroit Zoo on the morning of Sunday, May 8. Officials said the joey was last seen by animal care staff members at 5 p.m. on May 7.

Baby wallabies crawl into their mother’s pouch immediately after birth, where they continue to develop. Zoo officials were concerned for the wellbeing of the 5-month-old wallaby, as it was still nursing and spending time in its mother’s pouch. Officials said Sunday that its “unlikely that the young wallaby can survive an extended amount of time away from the mother.”

After days of searching, zoo officials determined that the joey couldn’t have escaped from its enclosure, and that it was unlikely the baby wallaby was taken by a visitor. The zoo released a statement this week saying they believe a hawk or an owl are the main suspects in the wallaby’s disappearance.

“This 2-acre habitat is home to 11 kangaroos and wallabies Sprocket, Eloise and Bucky who was born last spring,” the statement reads. “There are native predators, such as owls and hawks, who live near the zoo. At this time, we believe it is likely one of these aerial predators was involved.”

The Detroit Zoo announced Friday, May 13, that it will no longer search for the wallaby joey after exhausting “every resource” at its disposal, and because they don’t believe the animal is still alive.

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce we are ceasing our search for the wallaby joey who was discovered missing on Sunday, May 8.

“We have exhausted every resource at our disposal, spent dozens of hours reviewing all trail cam and security footage, and thoroughly searched the Zoo and surrounding areas. We are heartbroken that nothing has revealed to us the location of this wallaby. At this point, after so many days away from the mother, we do not believe this joey could still be alive.

“The Detroit Zoo is a leader in animal welfare, widely known for spacious, naturalistic habitats that mimic what an animal might see in the wild. However, when tragedies like this occur, we must review and revisit our policies and procedures to ensure we are doing everything possible to preserve the life and welfare of the animals in our care. Our leadership team is currently undergoing this process.

“All of us at the Detroit Zoo mourn the loss of this joey, but we take solace in knowing that the mother wallaby, 4-year-old Sprocket, appears to be healthy and doing well. Animal care staff continues to provide her — and every animal at the Zoo — with the highest level of care.

“Thank you to everyone who followed the search for this joey and offered support. We are devastated this story did not have a happy ending.”

The Detroit Zoo via Facebook

The zoo had initially announced the birth of the wallaby joey on Friday, May 6. The joey was so young that its gender had yet to be determined.

Another joey was born at the zoo back in 2020, the first since 2010.

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.