July 31, 2012 at 9:25 AM ET
Caddy, a baby wombat in Australia, has won the hearts of animal lovers around the world after photos were released of her peeking out of her man-made pouch.
The 18-month-old marsupial was rescued after her mom was killed by a car. Caddy survived the accident and was taken in by volunteers at Warrandyte Wildlife Shelter in Melbourne, Victoria where she is receiving care.
Amy Amato, the development manager and rescue volunteer for Wildlife Victoria, told TODAY.com that Caddy is in the process of moving to a new shelter, where she will be joined by several other rescued wombats that are her size so they can be raised in pairs. After Caddy is old enough, she will be released back into the wild.
The short-legged marsupials are native to rural parts of Australia, but as urban development encroaches onto their natural environment, wombats are often hit by cars. Now, most of the wombats that come to Amato's shelter are rescued from car accidents. The mothers often don't survive but, according to Amato, “because they live in the pouch, (the babies) tend to be okay.” The service that saves the injured wombats receives 300-400 calls per day from concerned members of the public reporting animals needing to be rescued.
There are so many rescued wombats and other marsupials in need of pouches that volunteers spend much of their time making them, and there is a link on the shelter's website for members of the public who want to help make them too. “We also have volunteers who knit possum pouches because in the springtime, we get a lot of joeys who need homes and the pouches are a pseudo mother’s pouch,” Amato said. The pouches are often hung off the side of baby’s crib from a coat hanger, placed so that they hang just above the ground to simulate the feeling of being in a mother's pouch.
Caddy has been keeping company with some teddy bears while being rescued, though she’ll leave them behind once she is moved to her shelter to be with her new friends. Amato said that the stuffed animals are there for "the little babies who need to feel that comfort from other little things because they don’t have their mum with them.” As TODAY.com reported last week, sloths like to snuggle too. A baby sloth, just 2 months old, adopted her own teddy after being saved from malnutrition.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of contact with wombats over the years," said Amato. "They’re just little terrors, especially when they’re Caddy’s age. They are just so naughty. They run around and they act like a little rodeo horse jumping around. They’re absolutely crazy. Really, they’re just adorable.”
TODAY.com contributor Jillian Eugenios would like to knit Caddy a matching sweater to go with her custom-made pouch.