Staff at Australia's Taronga Zoo have welcomed a new member to the family: a baby yellow-bellied glider. The male joey, who's been named "Banjo", is the 15th yellow-bellied glider born at Taronga and the first for mom "Shy".

Yellow -bellied -glider -joey _2015_09_04
Image: Taronga Zoo

These adorable marsupials belong to a group of animals known as gliding possums. They’re nocturnal and can soar as far as 140 metres in a single leap!

According to keeper Wendy Gleen, the birth is especially exciting because Banjo's mom was hand-reared in captivity (she was rescued from the pouch after her own mother was found caught in a barbed wire fence). Banjo's arrival is a sign that hand-rearing is not a barrier to successful breeding with yellow-bellied gliders. 

At four months old, Banjo just recently left his mother’s pouch, though he remains in his parents’ nesting hollow safe and sound. “He should start to venture out on his own shortly. He’s looking very healthy and he’s inherited mum’s distinctive dark splotches on the side of his nose,” says Gleen.

Yellow-bellied gliders make their nests in the hollows of trees, and as such, habitat loss is currently one of the biggest factors in their conservation. As Gleen explains: “[T]he biggest problem for the gliders is local bushland being broken up by development along the eastern seaboard where they’re found. It takes 120 years for a mature tree to provide a nesting hollow, so they are irreplaceable in our lifetime and we’ve lost so many in recent years.”

If you happen to live in Australia, you can help ensure the cute critters’ future by planting native trees and protecting mature ones that these little guys call home.