12 Sep 2014

The Wallaby Lady

From Country Life, 9:29 pm on 12 September 2014

i love wallabies
Gwen and a blind joey called Charm (who is also in the photo below)

Bennett's wallabies were first brought to the Waimate district in the 1870s for sport and for the value of their skins and their descendants have been successfully breeding ever since.

Wallabies now occupy about 350,000 hectares of land in the Hunters Hills area of South Canterbury and have recently been found on the south side of the Waitaki River in North Otago.

They enjoy a diet of grasses, shrubs, small trees and can spread tuberculosis so farmers regularly commission hunters to shoot them.

Adult females are often shot while carrying a baby joey in their pouch. Joeys that survive this ordeal often end up in the arms of Gwen Dempster-Schouten, who has been hand raising orphaned joeys since 1977 and is known locally as the wallaby lady.

Currently Gwen has about 70 wallabies at EnkleDooVery Korna, her animated wallaby park on the outskirts of Waimate. When a hunter drops off a baby joey Gwen cares for it in her house, until its strong enough to be in an outdoor enclosure with all the other wallabies.

Gwen says “It’s like raising a child in an incubator, every three hours night and day I have to feed them keep them warm keep them clean, toilet train them, cleanliness is next to godliness, every time you touch them you wash your hands before and after, because there so susceptible to disease.”

Visitors to EnkleDooVery Korna are supplied with a bag of wallaby snacks and instructions on how to befriend these likeable marsupials. A small admission fee helps to pay for food for the wallabies and all the other displaced birds and animals that have become part of Gwen’s extended family.

Gwen feeding wallabies

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to Country Life

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)