• Short Summary

    Zoologists in Melbourne, Aust., are carrying out new research into on of the world's rarest mammals.

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    MUSIC: "High jumpers" Festival FLD 550

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: Zoologists in Melbourne, Aust., are carrying out new research into on of the world's rarest mammals.

    The Narbalek, the smallest member of the kangaroo family, is also one of the strongest for its size. It's able to leap up tall wall in a single bound-- and for that reason has been dubbed the "super roo".

    Only recently, zoologists were able to start research on the first live Narbaleks ever captured -- at a nature reserve in the ground's of Melbourne's Monash university. It's a secret reserve, accessible to few people -- and scientists have the opportunity of studying some of the creatures in a natural environment.

    This is a nature reserve in the grounds of Melbourne's Monash University. It's used for the zoological study of native animals - mainly kangaroos. There are sixty members of the kangaroo family here, living in a small natural oasis within the university campus. The reserve is a secret place, accessible to few people. Within the tranquillity of this environment, the mysteries of some of Australia's most fascinating wildlife are being observed and slowly unravelled.

    Kangaroos and wallabies of all types and sizes have been studied to learn about their eating and digestive patterns. Many of these animals were born on the reserve and have become exceptionally tame. In the wild, they'd be timid and fearful of the camera. But not here.

    Dr. David Sanson is senior tutor in Zoology. He specialises in studies of the kangaroo family. With his assistant Mara Blosfelds, he's been carrying out research on the latest and rarest additions to the sanctuary - the smallest kangaroo of all, the miniature rock wallaby known as the Narbalek.

    The Narbaleks were captured in the Northern Territory almost a year ago - the first live specimens ever to be taken. They're housed in specially heated rooms in the grounds of the reserve. Efforts to form a breeding colony have already been successful. One Joey has just been born, and another - this one - was captured in the pouch and is already thriving.

    The Monash expedition found the Narbaleks in the rocky formations of the Mount Boradaile complex about 300 kilometres east of Darwin. The animals are nocturnal and rarely seen, living among the rocks which they negotiate with extraordinary agility. The area is surrounded by flood plains where the Narbaleks feed at night. The tiny animals fascinate scientists because of their teeth formations. Normal kangaroos use up their teeth during life until eventually they become toothless and die because they can't eat. Narbaleks continually regenerate their teeth throughout life - a factor that bears on their eating and survival patterns and makes them unique within the kangaroo family.

    This is a rare moment on film. The first time a newborn Narbalek has been filmed within the mother's pouch.

    Even though Narbaleks are kangaroos only in miniature, they remain members of an animal family with a fossil history stretching back eight-million years.

    There are not the kangaroos that most people know. They are very special creatures which have managed to develop and survive by adapting to life in their own unique way.

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