Woman uses kangaroo named Boomeroo to promote books on nature, conservation


Julia Heckathorn is seen with her pet kangaroo, Boomeroo, at her home in Fauquier County, Va. Boomeroo is the star in Heckathorn’s series of children’s books about nature and conservation. (Courtesy of Hidden Clover)

Woman uses kangaroo named Boomeroo to promote books on nature, conservation

Woman uses kangaroo named Boomeroo to promote books on nature, conservation

The kangaroo comes out last. And Boomeroo — 4 feet and 45 pounds of marsupial exuberance — always makes an impression on the kids Julia Heckathorn has been reading her nature and conservation books to.

See video of Boomeroo posted to Julia Heckathorn's YouTube page.

Now Boomeroo’s appeal has exploded way beyond school groups.

Heckathorn, who lives in Fauquier County, and said she’s “not that great at marketing” has become very well known in the last few weeks after the Caters News Agency of the United Kingdom discovered a video she had posted on YouTube titled “The Cutest Baby Kangaroo.” Heckathorn posted her video on youtube a year ago.

After the Caters story, NBC’s “The Today Show” recently picked up her story, as did the Daily Mail, the Times London and People.

Heckathorn, 28, has been posting videos of Boomeroo to her web site and on social media links for about a year. Many feature Boomeroo in her T-shirts and baby onesies hopping behind her “mother” — Heckathorn — from room to room of their home and dancing to the Beatles hit “Good Day Sunshine.”

Boomeroo gets upset when she doesn’t have on a shirt, similar to a dog wearing a thunder shirt. “It keeps her feeling secure,” Heckathorn said.

In another video, Boomeroo is playing with her housemate — an anteater named Captain Noche Cuervo (whose name in English means Captain Night Raven) and who also stars in Heckathorn’s books.

Boomeroo can hop up and down the stairs, four at a time, drinks goat’s milk from a bottle, and munches on kangaroo pellets, a mix of grass feed and ground up corn. She’s also partial to neck scratches.

The thing she is not, said Heckathorn, is a pet.

She’s an “educational” animal, Heckathorn said.

Having Boomeroo, and the other unique animals who she and her husband share their home with, isn’t a move to promote exotic animal ownership, Heckathorn said. She has a license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that allows her to keep her animals as exhibits. She takes them to schools, libraries and museums to promote her series of books called, “Search for the Hidden Clover.”

“It is a way to shock kids into really being interested in nature,” Heckathorn said.

Heckathorn paid $3,500 for Boomeroo when the animal was three weeks old to a Texas breeder of kangaroos that sells them to zoos and animal exhibitors like Heckathorn.

Heckathorn said she’s frequently asked if Boomeroo is vicious.

“People often ask, ‘Do they punch or kick? Are they mean?’” she said. “That’s what people think when they see them, but they are really extremely sweet.”

Heckathorn said Boomeroo has “never learned to kick” like kangaroos in the wild. She has taught her that when she puts her arms out, “it is to hug,” so Boomeroo hugs Heckathorn’s legs.

Boomeroo has also learned how to be “good with kids,” Heckathorn said.

“She’s very social,” she said. “She’ll walk right up to the kids and sniff them.”

Heckathorn and her husband, Jason, travel with Boomeroo in the backseat of their car, laying her in a bag — with her feet, arms and head out, seatbelt on. She usually sleeps during the ride. She’s gone as far as Pennsylvania and into North Carolina, making about two to six appearances a month.

About six months ago, Boomeroo got a little too big for Heckathorn’s house and she had to get ready for their new addition — a human baby. Heckathorn is five months pregnant with her first child.

The couple built Boomeroo a climate-controlled barn, complete with an eight-foot fence around the yard area. Though Boomeroo still spends her days mostly laying at Heckathorn’s feet as she writes.

Heckathorn said inspectors from USDA do unannounced spot checks on her operation every six months to make sure the animals are well cared for and fed. She also has two sugar gliders, named Crunchie and Dexter. For the unfamiliar, they are small gliding possums. And there’s also an orange-colored cat named Larry.

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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