Australian Woman Is 'Mum' to Abandoned Baby Wombat

10/20/2009 at 12:00 PM EDT

Australian Woman Is 'Mum' to Abandoned Baby Wombat
Newspix/REX USA
Like many toddlers, 8-month-old Jensen takes comfort nuzzling into his mom's neck. But there's something definitely different about this foster child that Linda Sauvarin has taken under her wing: He's a wombat, a forest-dwelling animal found in Australia and Tasmania.

"He thinks I'm his wombat mum. He always buries his face in my neck," says Sauvarin, founder of the Warrandyte Wildlife Shelter, near Victoria, Australia. She rescued the little animal when his mother was hit and killed by a car at just 3 months old.

Rescued from his mom's pouch after the accident, "he was pink," says Sauvarin, who has reared hundreds of orphaned wombats over the years. Now about 8 lbs., Jensen is heartily drinking five bottles of milk formula and has started eating grass, part of a typical wombat diet.

"Wombats are the most enchanting, bewitching, naughty of all the Australian marsupials, which is probably why I like them the most," Sauvarin tells As her shelter is based out of her house, the animals she nurses often come into her home for supervised playtime, occasionally chewing on table legs and computer cables.

Next week, Jensen will be getting a friend – another male wombat. And by the time he's about 2 and a half years old, Sauvarin will release him to dig his own outdoor burrows in the wild.

"His whole life here has been amusing," she says. But with car accidents an unfortunate "daily affair," Sauvarin assures: "I'm a mum at home every day of the year. There's always babies to feed."

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