Kangaroos are incredible and unique animals. Native to Australia, kangaroos are “marsupials,” a form of mammal noted for the female’s ability to carry a baby in her pouch. Kangaroos are big animals with large feet and powerful legs. They are well known for their “hopping” movements and cute, yet unusual, appearance. There are four types of kangaroos: the red kangaroo, eastern grey kangaroo, western grey kangaroo, and antilopine kangaroo. Red kangaroos are the largest marsupials in the world; males can reach 6’7 feet tall and weigh 200 pounds! Western grey kangaroos are small in comparison, with males rarely reaching above 6 feet tall or exceeding 119 pounds.
Kangaroos are fast moving since hopping away from predators and danger is their primary method of defense. However, they can also issue a powerful kick with their feet. Kangaroos are strict herbivores, meaning that they only eat plants and avoid meat. They spend most of their time grazing on grasses and commonly travel in packs. Many species of kangaroos are nocturnal and only come out at night, preferring to spend days in the shade. However, it is not exactly rare to see kangaroos active in daylight. Some kangaroos have adapted so well to the presence of human beings that they will daringly graze close to where people are gathered. During golf tournaments in Australia that attract thousands of visitors, wild kangaroos were openly roaming the area, grazing and unconcerned by the nearby people.
Groups of kangaroos are called mob and a baby kangaroo is called a “joey.” Mother kangaroos tend to only have one offspring per pregnancy, although twins are possible. Kangaroo babies are born after an extremely short gestation of 31-36 days. Directly after birth they are placed in the mother’s pouch where they continue to grow and strengthen. Joeys exit the mother’s pouch for the first time when they are about 190 days old, although they tend to climb inside the pouch as a means of locomotion when the mother must travel somewhere and the young joey would be unable to keep up. Joeys permanently leave the pouch when they are approximately 235 days old. Kangaroos do not tend to live long in the wild, with many dying at around six years of age. However, in captivity they have been known to live for over 20 years.
Male kangaroos are sometimes seen to exhibit “boxing” like behavior with their small arms. This behavior is usually associated with competition for mates. In the past, some kangaroos were used in circus side shows where they “boxed” with a human being for the amusement of audiences. This practice has mostly been banned as of 2013 as a result of animal rights coalitions, although it is probably still in effect in some places.
Kangaroos are very beautiful and interesting animals. They can be found at zoos or seen on televised nature programs yet the best way to encounter a kangaroo is to visit Australia. Kangaroos have been immortalized in children’s literature such as “Winnie the Pooh” due to their whimsical appearance and docile natures and they continue to captivate people in real-life too. For anyone who loves animals, kangaroos are certainly a site to see!