Transporting your Animal!
click on thumbnail pictures to enlarge
There are many schools of thought when it comes to the safe
transporting of an animal. Try to take into
account a number of important, factors when
choosing your mode of transport.
How many animals are you transporting
How big is the animal
How far is the animal traveling
What time of day will the animal be traveling
Will there be other objects in or around the
animal during transit
You must think of the animal’s safety at all times. It is
no good putting the animal in a soft calico bag
if they are likely to get squashed by falling
objects or by sliding around a vehicle. Take
the time to look closely at the method of
transportation being used and ascertain what
will be the best method of holding. Pet-packs
come in a range of sizes and colours (see figure
1) (not that colour will impact on the animal
but some people are very colour conscious!) and
they will vary in price a great deal. Most
pet stores and some veterinary practices will
carry a limited range and there are also a
number of different styles to choose from. It
could be argued as to which is the best type.
As long the door closes securely, and any
holes are not too large that the animal may
escape through, they will do the job very well.
If you are using an old pet-pack, check for
any signs of wear and tear on the screws and
door or for any signs of fatigue on the plastic
shell. This will ensure that it is not likely
to fall apart during transit. Any style of
commercial pet pack will generally be accepted
by airlines and transport companies although
they do get a little worried about the
transportation of anything that is not a dog or
Tip: Attached an old piece of hessian
sacking or other heavy material over the door.
This provides the animal with a little more
Another good idea is to put the animal inside a calico bag
(like the ones that you get with bread machine
mix) before placing in the pet pack.
Supply the animal with plenty of straw or
bedding material (clean of course!) to help make
the transportation more comfortable for the
animal and to give it some privacy. A word
of caution about straw. If you are sending
an animal Interstate check that the receiving
state will allow the importation of plant
materials – some are VERY strict in this
regard! A good substitute is strips of
newspaper. Animals like to hide and try to
feel secure even though they will be petrified!
Resist the temptation to supply food during
transit. Firstly, if the journey is long the
food may become rancid and could cause gut
problems when eaten. Secondly, if food is
supplied and the animal is going to a new home,
the animals’ appetite will not be reflected
accurately and could cause some stress for the
new owner when the animal does not touch their
food! Thirdly, most animals, during
transit, will not eat anyway. If you are
sending your animal to a new home, try and
supply some form of diet sheet which outlines
what you have been feeding that animal during
its time in your care. It will serve as a good
starting point for the new owner in trying to
settle the animal into its new home.
If traveling by car be sure to remember not to leave the
vehicle unattended for any prolonged periods
during the day and most importantly, during the
hottest part of the day say between 11am and 3pm
– even if you do have air conditioning. This
may sound ridiculously simply and you are
probably thinking “…goes without saying...” but
people do do these sorts of things.
The large black one and the two small white ones are by far the better
The others are too open.
The slots, of course can be covered as in the small white ones
above but they do provide nice edges for chewing
You will notice even the top small white one has had the door and the
sides vents covered to offer the transportee a feeling of security.
and support the pet-pack by placing on the floor
of your vehicle behind the driver’s seat etc.
If you have to put it on the seat then secure it
with the seatbelt. If putting in the wagon
section of the vehicle then try to wedge it with
a rug or some old towels to reduce slippage
around the car. A cargo barrier is always good
– not only to reduce to space around the animal
but to also safeguard any passengers, and in
particular the driver!
When your animal has been safely
delivered to its new location, don’t try to
forcibly remove the animal from the pet pack.
Instead, open the door, remove some (but not
all) the bedding and leave it well alone for an
hour or two. Place some food outside – and
wait. There are new noises, smells, layout, and
roommates with which to become familiarized
before he/she will even consider “stepping
out”. You may wish to leave the travel pack in
the cage overnight as somewhere for the animal
The safe transportation of animals is essential for their
longevity and well-being. Don’t be hasty in
your actions – take time to think things through
and you will find that there is nothing complex
involved. All it needs is a little practice and
2. Kangaroos, Wallabies.
Kangaroo joeys would be by far one of the easiest of critters
to move from place to place if they are still
pouch bound. It is quite simply a matter of
picking up the animal in its bag or pouch and
off you go and, provided you are there at feed
time, it is highly unlikely it, or you, will
suffer any adverse consequences. Even an
‘at foot’ joey, provided it has been hand raised
by you and you are moving with it, should
present no problem. Again it is simply a
matter of picking up the animal and popping into
a large bag or sack and then sitting it on your
lap during the transportation phase. If you
are unable to do this, the next best way would
be to hang the bag (complete with animal) from a
hook within the vehicle so that it is hanging as
if in mums pouch. Most, if not all vehicles
these days, are equipped with a coat hanger hook
inside the back door, usually behind the driver,
which suits this purpose admirably. Once
ensconced in the bag the animal will settle down
and will rarely give you cause for concern.
I have transported two Eastern Grey ‘at foot’
joeys in this manner quite successfully, hanging
in the back of a car for a two and a half hour
journey. A word of caution – if you are using
the hanging bag method (and to some extent for
your lap if using the ‘sitting on the lap
method’) these animals will be under, at least
some stress and are likely to lose bladder
control, so be prepared and make provision to
alleviate the ensuing mess.
If, on the other hand we are going to transport adult
kangaroos, the picture changes quite
dramatically. If you can avoid moving them at
all, then please do so – it is by far the best
solution to this problem – easy to say – maybe
not so easy to do. These are difficult
animals to move, an event to which many people
will attest and especially over long distances.
As a general rule a high percentage of adult ‘roos that are
moved will be dead within eighteen months (maybe
even up to a couple of years) of the move.
The reasons for this are many and varied but
basically they all succumb to a condition known
as myopathy which in layman’s terms is a severe
form of stress.
However, having said that, many adult ‘roos can be moved
without incident and I believe that there are
three main factors in the success of such an
operation. First, the temperament of the
individual animal; second, the owner or carer of
the animal should move with them and third, but
by no means least, that the geography of the
location from which the animal is taken,
compared with that of where it is going to go,
should be of a similar size and
characteristics. I will give you an example
of what I mean.
Some years ago we moved seventeen adult
‘roos, three Euros (or Wallaroos)
seven Western Greys
and seven Reds
from an area that
they had been used to since they were small,
some for as long as eleven or so years. They
had all been hand-raised and brought up in that
particular location which was a small acreage in
the Adelaide Hills. They were transported to
a location about one and a half hours drive away
that was of similar size (and I said earlier I
think this is part of the key to success),
although somewhat different in characteristics,
and we also moved with them (another part of the
key). Some handled it well, some not so
Box trailer used to transport kangaroos.
Note air vents at front and extractors on the roof.
This is a converted standard 8’ x 5’ trailer using a cage and
sheets of plywood
I must be honest and say that we did have problems catching
three to be transported because they
were starting to get jumpy (no pun intended), wondering where all their ‘mates’
had gone. They were transported in a totally
enclosed box trailer (see figure 2), two or
three at a time. They were all drugged before
the move by intramuscular injection with an
anesthetic product which is used to calm pigs
prior to slaughter. This was supplied by our
Vet. As most of our animals were handleable
it was not too difficult to do this, apart from
the last three who had to be darted. We
called in our veterinarian to do this job and
the whole exercise turned out to be quite a
traumatic afternoon (but that is another
story). The beauty of this drug is that if
you administer the correct dosage the animal
should not be unconscious but just a bit
dopey. What you are trying to achieve is for
the animal to remain standing during the journey
– if they are allowed to lie unconscious or
semiconscious for long periods of time there is
a danger of fluid build up in the lungs with
As I may have mentioned before, we
moved seventeen adult ‘roos in this way and over
the following two years we lost (as in died)
four animals under what I can only describe as
‘suspicious circumstances’. One of these was
taken to the vet in a state of great distress
and was diagnosed with a very severe case of
myopathy and was euthanased. The other three
died before we had realised there was anything
wrong,which, unfortunately, is a typical symptom
of myopathy. These types of animals very rarely
exhibit pain or distress until the problem is so severe that it is
more often than not, irreversible. To make matters worse they are also
generally silent – they generally do not cry out
This style of transport box can be manufactured quite easily using 6mm ply
and a pine frame with welded mesh for vents.
Sizes will depend on the animal you are going to transport but it
could be used for almost any macropod and would be also be suitable for
many other species of marsupial and eutherian mammals.
Note that this transporter has a slide door both ends and stout carry
handles along the side placed a little high of centre.
Another method of moving adult ‘roos or wallabies that I have
seen used with very good results, is to place
each individual animal into a specially designed
crate (see figure 3). This is in the form of
a rectangular wooden box with air holes around
the top and a slide door both ends and only just
wide enough for the animal to stand (again, you
are trying to avoid the animal lying down in a
semiconscious state for long periods of
time). I have seen wild caught
kangaroos moved from
South Australia to
Victoria by road in this manner, and only a week
after the move the animals concerned were eating
out of the owner’s hands. Sounds almost
too good to be true doesn’t it, although I have
to admit they were Kangaroo Island Kangaroos
which have the reputation of being the
most lay back of all the kangaroo species.
3. Brushtail and Ringtail Possums and
There are many ways of transporting possums and some of the
smaller marsupials. A simple small ‘pet
pack’ as used for a cat or small dog would be
one of the best but please make sure the pet
pack has solid sides or at least some form of
covering to ensure the animal cannot be
disturbed during its journey. This will also
ensure it has a feeling of security.
A method I have used for interstate road journeys which have
involved an overnight stay en route was
to use a large pet pack, rather than a small
one, and drilled a few small holes in the top
through which I threaded some galvanised wire
and stitched an old hessian sack to hang down
inside like a curtain about two-thirds back from
the door. This enabled the possum to have
somewhere to hide and gave it a feeling of
security. It also enabled us to put food and
water inside the pet pack without disturbing the
animal and, being a large pet pack, there was a
bit of room for animal to move around at
night. For this type of animal there should be
a decent layer of straw or newspaper on the
floor of the pet pack simply for hygiene
see at figure 1.
some of the
different types of pet packs that we have used
over the years and I would suggest that when
transporting native animals you should avoid the
ones that have the slots in the bottom half.
The ones with the solid bottoms and holes in the
top half are by far the best. The smaller
pet packs (the white ones in the illustration)
would also be suitable for creatures like
Bettongs, Potoroos, and Quolls etc. For this
type of animal you should stuff the pet pack
full of straw and then punch a hole in the
middle of it with your fist and make a “tunnel”
into which you put the animal. This is purely
as security for the animal and you will find
that it will travel much happier this way. It
will be warm, comfortable, reasonably hygienic
and the animal will have that feeling of
By the way, only transport one animal per pet
pack. NO exceptions.
4. Sugar Gliders, Squirrel Gliders and
The basis of this section was described in part 1 of this
article but has been expanded and I believe is
worthy of repeating. This method of
transportation is a favourite of mine as I
believe it puts the animal under the very least
amount of stress possible and it can also be
used for a range of possums, and other small
This is the series of nets that I use.
The small one is the most valuable and is used for all manner of birds,
gliders and possums.
The light one (as in not heavy) on the right is used for Bettongs,
Potoroos and possums in very high aviaries.
The heavy one on the left is used for wallabies
It does have some disadvantages, however. Firstly, unless you have
only one animal per aviary, or, the animals
within that aviary sleep in separate boxes, it
will not work. Secondly, if this is not the
case you will need to move the wanted animal to
an ‘isolation’ aviary, preferably some time (and
I mean days or even weeks) before it is
transported to its new home. This may seem
a bit like double handling, but just think about
it for a moment. Under the conventional method
you would catch the animal, put it in a strange
bag or box, and send it to its intended
destination. Then it would be taken out the
bag or box and placed in another strange place
and then hopefully allowed to settle down.
Using my method, you catch the animal to be moved with
whatever method you would normally use, in my
case this would be a
net (see figure 4). Then that animal is
taken, in the net, to the isolation
aviary and released. From catch to release
possible only a few minutes – in some cases when
the isolation aviary has been next door to where
the animal came from – only thirty seconds or
so. You then let this animal settle down in
its new home for some days (or even weeks) and
provide it with a sleeping box in which the
animal can be trapped (see figures 5,6,7,8).
When the time comes to relocate the animal this box can
simply be closed off and lifted out of the
aviary complete with animal and transported
elsewhere. The box stays with animal, which
means it will have something familiar to sleep
in for the foreseeable future and the new owner
can install the animal and its box in its new
aviary in its new location with absolutely no
disturbance to the animal at all.
Figures 5, 6, 7, & 8
Figures 5, 6 & 7, are examples of the method I used
for moving a Squirrel Glider showing how the animal was prevented from
escaping. Also note this
box has a lid that can be slid to one side to make sure the animal is ‘at
home’ before you remove the box from the aviary.
Figure 8 is the same type of box but much larger and
is designed for a Brush-tail Possum.
The same principle applies as with the Squirrel Glider box.
I have used this method with a great deal of
success on numerous occasions but admittedly
only for short overland journeys. I don’t
think the airlines would approve of this method
because the boxes would not fit into their
‘pigeon hole’ of acceptable animal transport.
However you could probably take this idea one
step further and put the box into a pet pack and
then fly the animal almost anywhere.
Here are some more examples of methods of transporting small
animals safely and are all designed for the
creature concerned to arrive at its destination
in good condition.
Figures 9 & 10 show two more transport boxes that are
basically designed for birds but will do just as well for small mammals.
The small bowls in the box in figure 10 are there for food or water but
only whilst the box is stationery.
It is not a good idea (or necessary) to provide food for the journey
unless there is an overnight (or other long stop) involved.
Figure 11 & 12 is another box designed for birds but is
just as good for Gliders or Potoroos and the like.
This is a double-ended box to enable two animals to be transported
together and would ideal for a breeding pair.
Transporting wombats is, again, a major undertaking and
should not be attempted without considerable
For short distances again a pet pack is probably the easiest
(but not necessarily the most secure)
method. As with the kangaroos, the age of
the animal will determine your course of
action. I imported a young Common Wombat
Victoria some years ago and he was flown over in
a pet pack similar to the middle sized ones
shown in figure 1. Admittedly he was only 2.5
kegs at the time and you wouldn’t have known he
was in there unless you had read the
Young animals (say up to around the 15kg range) could be
transported quite successfully in a pet
pack. But then, at the higher end of even
this weight range, it would be prudent to put
ropes or straps around the pet pack to avoid the
animal breaking the door down. It happens,
believe me, I speak from experience!!
Shows chewing damage on the bottom front
lip and interior of a pet pack from a wombat
during a one and a half hour road journey.
For adult animals the pet pack would only be used for short journeys and
only if you have some way of stopping the animal
kicking the door down. They will also give
the plastic a hard time (see figure 13).
The doors on these pet packs are not designed to
stand up to this type of animal and particularly
not one that has a destructive streak or who is
exceptionally aggressive. If
you do use a pet pack, make sure the door is
pushed up against the side of the transporting
vehicle and the pet pack is jammed in tight so
it cannot move. I realise I am
making this sound like a transporting nightmare
but I am showing you what would really be the
worst case scenario. The
majority of animals, even adults, will probably
settle down after a short while, particularly if
you are transporting them during the day.
You may have more difficulty if you intend to
transport at night.
However, in any event, you need to be prepared
for the unexpected.
Wombats are notoriously unpredictable.
Another more complex method of transporting a wombat would be
to make up a box something along the lines of
the one shown at figure 14. This would be for
personal road transportation only, unless you
are fond of throwing away large sums of money on
airfreight but to be honest, again, I do not
think the airlines would view this container as
a suitable mode of transport.
This box was made from 16mm veneered chipboard and has
been used for a number of different animals for many years.
It has provision for a divider (which has been removed) towards one
end which slides in from the top.
This is used when the animals are very small to give them an end of
the box in which they can hide and use as a sleeping chamber.
This end also has a heater pad built into the floor controlled by a
thermostat which you can see in the picture on the right.
Note also the sturdy handles and the lockable access door.
This particular one was designed as a temporary home for an
orphaned animal in which it lived until it was
time for it to go out into a proper
enclosure. It was also designed fit into the
back of my station wagon with some room to
If you are going to use something like this for transport
only or temporary accommodation only then there
is no need to go to the expense or trouble of
installing a heater and thermostat under the
‘sleeping quarters” and if you are only going to
house an adult animal for short periods then
there is also no need for the divider within the
box. It is very important that you
use a laminated product (I have also found that
veneered is quite good but does not have the
‘staying power’); something like laminated
chipboard is excellent and can be picked up at
most scrap yards or second hand dealers quite
cheaply. The reason you need a
laminated product is that the animals are unable
to chew it, (which they will if you use ‘raw’
timber) as it is too shiny and slippy.
Because of this you will need a piece of old
carpet, or similar, for the floor, so that the
poor animal is not slithering around all over
the place whilst you are on the move.
Sketch drawing of wombat box
And so concludes our article on the
transportation of a number of Australian native
species but I’m sure it is by no means complete
and we would be pleased top hear from anyone who
could offer any additional methods or
experiences over those described. Please
write to our box number or email the Editor.
Back to Part 1