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One keeper at the Chahinkapa Zoo in Wahpeton stepping in as around-the-clock mother to an orphaned kangaroo

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 Wahpeton, ND (WDAY TV) - Staff at the Chahinkapa Zoo are going leaps and bounds beyond their normal duties.

One keeper is stepping in as an around-the-clock mother to an orphaned kangaroo.

When Amanda Dukart visits the kangaroo enclosure, the ‘roos expect a special treat.

Now Dukart is hopping into a new role with the Aussie bunch's newest addition.

"It's not the norm probably."

Meet Barkley.

The joey's mother died unexpectedly several weeks ago.

Now, Dukart is taking the orphan into her pouch.

"At 3 o'clock, I got a call saying, 'Come down and grab your baby.' So that's when I became a mom,” said Dukart.

The new mom wears a handmade flannel pouch and sling, custom-fitted by another staffer.

"Most of the development actually happens inside the pouch, whereas a lot of our development happens inside the womb."

For the next 6 months, the developing joey will essentially be attached at the hip to Dukart, swaddled closely during daily duties.

"I'm working all the time, but I still have a baby to take care of… I can sympathize with working moms now."

And the first-timer is bonding with her adoptive baby like a real mother, too.

"Every day is something different. And she's getting personality. It's just really fun. It's a really cool experience."

Barkley should be able to leave the pouch at about 10 months old and by 18 months; she should be able to join the other kangaroos.

It's a critical time for the joey.

At this stage, she has just a 1 in 4 shot at survival and staff are hoping for a ‘hoppy’ ending.

"We're really hoping she survives. So we're trying our best and it's a learning experience for us as well."

The zoo opens March 19th.

But baby Barkley won't join the kangaroo exhibit until next year.

Catherine Ross

Catherine joined the WDAY 6 News team as a reporter and photographer in April of 2014 and is honored to bring you stories from around the Red River Valley. She grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis and got her first taste of the news industry during a high school mentorship at Fox 9 in the Twin Cities. Catherine graduated from Emerson College in Boston where she participated in the student-run TV station WEBN and spent a semester in Washington, DC working at Voice of America. Those opportunities gave her a front-row seat to the 2012 Presidential election cycle, reporting at the Iowa Caucuses, Republican National Convention and President Obama’s second inauguration. Now happy to be back closer to family, Catherine enjoys exploring the nature and culture of the upper Midwest. She’s an avid runner, novice foodie and lifelong Twins fan. If you have any story ideas or just want to say hello, Catherine would love to hear from you!

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