Simultaneously the best and worst aspect of veterinary practice is what seems like the…
Pouch checking is a skill that all Australian veterinarians need to learn. Actually, let me amend that statement: Pouch checking is a skill that all Australians need to learn. We live in a country heavily populated by marsupials, and unfortunately many of these wonderful creatures meet their demise on our roads. The accepted signal that the deceased animal’s pouch has been checked for young is a cross spray-painted on the body. This also serves as a testament to the challenging work carried out by our wildlife volunteers, and a reminder of the fact that orphans may be left behind, if these volunteers are not informed or available. It is therefore beholden upon us all to learn what to do when presented with this situation.
Pouch-checking: 3 Key Points for Rescuers, Carers and Vets
- Every deceased female marsupial should be checked for pouch young both in the pouch, and the surrounding area, as young may have been thrown from the pouch during the incident or strayed from the site after the event 
- Removal of pouch young from the pouch must be done with extreme care, as in the early stages of development pouch young are permanently attached to the teat by its expansion in the oral cavity, and removal may cause palatal and lip injuries . At this stage it may be best that the teat be removed in its entirety from the deceased mother with the pouch young, and pinned inside a substitute pouch until the teat is released, usually within 2-3 hours 
- Pouch young removed from the pouch need to be kept warm inside a substitute pouch (such as a cloth bag, woollen hat or loose towel) until they can be assessed in order to minimise distress. 
In this video, Tim Faulkner, General Manager of the Australian Reptile Park, gives us a peek inside a healthy Eastern Quoll’s pouch as he undertakes a routine pouch inspection.
About the Presenter
Tim Faulkner is General Manager and Head of Conservation at the Australian Reptile Park, and is a recognized leader in the Australian zoo industry and conservation organisations. He was instrumental in initiating the Not-For-Profit organization Aussie Ark, which is committed to helping ensure a long-term future for threatened Australian species, and was named Australian Geographic Australian Conservationist of the Year in 2015. Tim has also appeared regularly on television in both Bondi Vet and his own successful international series The Wild Life of Tim Faulkner. Our film crew has worked with Tim on numerous occasions and have always been impressed by his down to earth, friendly attitude, absolute dedication to the animals in his care, and his advocacy for the vulnerable species he loves so much.
Need to know more?
There is a terrific, detailed guide on assessment of pouch young and their care and prognosis in the text Medicine of Australian Mammals (Vogelnest and Woods, 2008) – see references.
Find out more about Aussie Ark and how you can help this cause at www.aussieark.org.au/get-involved/