CLEVELAND — The North Georgia Zoo and Farm has a new addition — a baby albino wallaby named Joey.
“Albinism is a genetic-recessive trait. The albino (wallaby) is very rare,” said Tom Bennett, whose wife, Hope, started the zoo. “It’s very hard to get two in the wild together. ”
Joey is approximately 5 months old, Bennett said. It can take almost that long, three to four months, for the baby to peek outside its mother’s pouch, Bennett said. The mother wallaby can control the opening, making it harder for people to see the baby.
According to Bennett, the albino wallaby wouldn’t survive long in the wild because it stands out to predators. Albino wallabies are rare in captivity, too, though. Those at the zoo are the only ones recorded in Georgia and there are fewer than 50 recorded nationwide, according to the zoo.
The albino wallaby is one of five different types of kangaroo the zoo keeps along with red kangaroos, swamp wallabies, regular wallabies and Bettong kangaroos.
“As far as diversity, we’re a good place. To be able to see that many (kangaroos) is pretty unique,” Bennett said.
The Bennetts have been a part of the zoo and its education outreach program for 15 years. The zoo, which also has wolves, deer and other animals, has only been open to the public, though, for about a year.
“My wife’s the real driving force,” Bennett said.
Bennett said his goals with all the animals is to get them interacting and socializing with the people. He also wants to educate the public about some of the rare animals. The zoo also is a licensed rehabilitation facility for animals.
The zoo, located at 2912 Paradise Valley Road, is closed for the winter but opens in March.