Late this July, Sunset Zoo was pleasantly surprised as not one but two baby wallabies from two mothers joined its troupe. As one of the babies emerged from the pouch, zookeepers realized it was different from the others — it was albino.
Named after an island off Tasmania in Australia, home to 200 albino wallabies, Bruny is about two months old and is thriving with his fellow wallabies. His albinism is an extreme rarity, and the staff is keeping a watchful eye on him because of the health issues that can arise.
“He really did come through very healthy,” Melissa Kirkwood, Sunset Zoo’s marketing and development officer, said. “We watched through August and September and recently made this announcement. He’s doing really well — he’s outside of the pouch now but still nursing from mom. He is doing well with all the other wallabies, and this is probably a very, very rare occurrence.”
Kirkwood said the zoo has communicated with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, and there are no other albino wallabies in the nation. Had Bruny been born in the wild, he likely wouldn’t have survived predators because of his coloring. However, safe at Sunset Zoo, Bruny is getting around and connecting with fellow joey Arlo.
“We’ve never had two babies down there at the same time,” Kirkwood said. “We have Arlo too, and age-wise, they’re neck and neck, so that’s really neat to see. And as they grow, we’ll see some more interaction, so that’s really special.”
Bruny has been a star for the Sunset Zoo as visitors come to check out the buzz around this fluffy white joey.
“Bruny gets around the yard a lot, so do all the other wallabies, but he does like to hide,” Kirkwood said. “He’s becoming more acclimated to people and the zoo environment. It’ll be interesting in the wintertime when things get a little bit less green, his camouflage will probably lend itself. We’re wondering how it’ll be when it snows.”
Sunset Zoo has had new and impressive opportunities because of how uncommon an albino wallaby is, including state and national coverage from publications like People Magazine. However, focusing on Bruny and the rest of the troupe is the true incentive for their staff.
“Anytime that you have a remarkable instance occur, it’s pretty neat,” Kirkwood said. “It’s not something we expected or bred for, and we won’t breed for, it’s just an anomaly. … Even if Bruny would have been albino or not, it’s about the care that they receive from our keepers and staff. We monitor all our animals that are here, not only through their keepers but also through the vet team, which is part of the Kansas State veterinary medicine program. They have an actual hospital here on site, and then they rotate through all of the vet med program to explore and take care of exotic animals.”
Visitors can come to spot Bruny and the other wallabies at Sunset Zoo daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Oct. 31, and in winter hours from noon to 5 p.m. starting Nov. 1.