Have you seen the Weiser kangaroo lady?


Babby Farms livestock zookeeper and Weiser High School graduate Llanee Gibson interacts with the zoo’s youngest baby kangaroo, ‘Goose,’ which she takes with her everywhere, including the grocery store, gas station, and the gym. Photo by Philip A. Janquart

Zookeepers Ashlynd Jensen, left, and Llanee Gibson, right, have some laughs inside the otter enclosure at Babby Farms in Caldwell where animal encounters are the main focus. Photo by Philip A. Janquart
By: 
Philip A. Janquart
WHS graduate now working with marsupials at Babby Farms in Caldwell
Llanee Gibson can often be seen walking with a pouch slung over her shoulder. 
 Nothing unusual, unless you happen to catch a glimpse of the four appendages sticking out.
 A closer look reveals two small, glassy black eyes peering out from within.
 When you see it for the first time – maybe at Ridley’s or the Maverik gas station –your brain runs the usual identifying scan of known animals someone might be packing around.
 It’s not a deer or a Chihuahua. So, what is it?
 To most people’s astonishment, it’s a kangaroo.
 “Half the time, I get looks like, ‘What is she carrying in that bag?’ Then I get people who are absolutely amazed,” said Llanee who is becoming known in Weiser as the Kangaroo Lady.
 The 2018 Weiser High School graduate invited the Signal American to her place of employment at Babby Farms to get a first-hand look at a day in the life of a zookeeper.
Babby Farms
 The nonprofit organization is located at 5900 El Paso Road in Caldwell. If you are driving south on I-84, take the Sand Hollow exit and head east on Oasis Road. Keep going until you reach El Paso Road and drive north for about a couple miles. It will be on the east side of the road and as the saying goes, “You can’t miss it.”
 The operation’s  main mission is to give children and adults with disabilities the opportunity to interact with a wide range of animals from monkeys and camels to otters and kangaroos. Admission is $11 for adults 12-54, $8.50 for seniors over 55 and children 4-11. Kids under three and those with disabilities get in free. They offer discount days and various specials throughout the week. There is a great gift shop where you can also buy your ticket, complete with drinks and snacks.
 Babby Farms’ season begins May 1 and ends Sept. 30 and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with last call for admission at 4 p.m.
 Babby Farms employees say that people, disabled or not, benefit from hands-on interactions with animals.
 That means socializing them from a young age, which is why Llanee is never without the approximately 10-month-old joey she named “Goose.”
 “The first couple of days I had him, he wasn’t used to his big feet just yet and wasn’t very coordinated,” Llanee explained as she stood inside the kangaroo enclosure at Babby Farms. “He always walked super silly and just had such a personality, so I named him ‘Goose,’ short for silly goose.”
Finding a path
 Llanee, who was raised on a cattle ranch in Cambridge, said she and her family moved to Weiser so her sister who has Down’s Syndrome would be closer to Special Olympics in Boise.
 Veterinary medicine had always been on her radar, later attending Colorado State University where she studied animal science, pre-vet. The pandemic, however, led to a detour of sorts.
 “I’ve been working with animals my whole life; it’s just what I’ve always liked, but I didn’t end up getting my bachelor’s after COVID and everything happened; it threw a wrench in my plan,” she said. “It was kind of a pain in the butt doing stuff online, so I got my associate’s degree and ended up here.”
 She is now the livestock zookeeper at Babby Farms and couldn’t be happier. 
 Kangaroos, which are considered livestock and can live up to 25 years in captivity, need constant care while they are young, Llanee’s specialty is raising them by hand.
 Spoiled rotten
 “They are kind of like a baby; they need a bottle every couple hours,” she said.
 Baby kangaroos stay in their mothers’ pouches for about six months before venturing out into the world and, for a kangaroo, Goose is certainly seeing a lot. 
 Llanee takes him everywhere she goes – to the grocery store, gas station, and even the gym. Goose sometimes watches television and gets a weekly shower to keep from becoming “stinky.”
 People at Beyond Barbell gym in Weiser, owned by fellow WHS grad Kevin Bravo, are becoming used to seeing Goose.
 “At the gym, specifically, I have gotten a lot of really great reactions,” she said. “I asked Kevin’s permission beforehand, but Goose has to stay in his pouch. Kevin always jokes that Goose is the gym mascot. Everybody likes the kangaroo. 
 “They know that if I’m working out, there is probably a kangaroo with me. Sometimes I think Goose believes he is a person versus an animal because he is so spoiled rotten.”
 But that is, in a way, the intention.
 “The kangaroos, we raise them and socialize them because we want people to go in with them, to have encounters with them,” Llanee said. “So, we hand raise them and socialize them so people can hang out with them; it’s a lot of what we do.”
 Babby Farms has 10 kangaroos in all, including two larger males who are kept separate from the rest, and from the public.
 The zoo’s animals are donated from other zoos while some are born right at Babby Farms. Much of the food is donated from local grocery stores. Donations are what keep the zoo running.
 Animal care
 Babby Farms is required to have permits to operate and works with a handful of agencies such as the USDA and Idaho Fish and Game.
 “There are a lot of hoops,” said Ashlynd Jensen, one of Babby Farms’ zookeepers. “Facility checks are done routinely and every year we have to update our permits.”
 Ashlynd’s daily schedule currently involves caring for five baby otters. 
 “Our primary focus is diet and enrichments, socialization, and treatment,” she said. “We do a lot of medical treatment and have vets that we are in close personal contact with on a daily basis. We are always checking in. Everybody is up to date on vaccinations; everybody is played with and loved, although sometimes the babies a little more than the others, to be honest.”
 Both Ashlynd and Llanee, as well as a third zookeeper, Sarah, say it is their mission to give the animals the best quality of life possible and that they wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
 “Every job has its challenges, but working with the animals is definitely rewarding; it’s easy to come back every day, to do your best every day,” Ashlynd said.
 The zoo has made lots of changes throughout the facility and invites the public to see its new enclosures.
 For more information on Babby Farms, visit www.babbyfarms.net, call (208) 455-4487, or follow them on Facebook.
 

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Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718
 

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