Brief Overview: The Kangaroo is a marsupial from the Macropodidae family. The kangaroo’s scientific name, macropod, means “large foot”. It is to be noted that the original natives of Australia, the Guugu Yimidhirr, were believed to call the animal “Gangaruu” which meant, “I don’t know” as first recorded by Captain James Cook when he first landed. This is, in fact, untrue as it is believed the captain misheard the word gangaruu for “minha” meaning “edible animal”.
Species and Appearance: There are four different species of kangaroo currently existing: The Red Kangaroo, the Eastern Gray Kangaroo, the Western Gray Kangaroo, and the Antilopine Kangaroo. There are also more than 50 smaller species closely related to the kangaroo that are part of the same family but not the same. The most common, and largest, of the four is the red kangaroo. It can grow up to six feet tall and weigh up to 194 pounds. The red kangaroo is also the largest of all marsupials in the world while the smallest, in the kangaroo species, is the antilopine. The antilopine can stand at above three feet tall and weigh between 44 – 108 pounds.
Habitats and Locations: Most of the kangaroos live in Australia, where they originate. Their home areas consist of forests, eucalyptus woodlands, plains, and savannahs. They are spread throughout Australia from the very north down to the very center that stretches towards the coastal lines. They can also be found very south, across the ocean, in Tasmania.
Survival and Behavior: A kangaroo can be recognized across the world by how it moves. It does not walk, or run, but hops from place to place with their powerful hind legs and large feet. For the kangaroo to successfully hop around, it uses its tail to balance itself while moving. The kangaroo can hop at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour when running from danger. A fully grown kangaroo can even leap up to 10 feet high. On average speeds, the kangaroo can go a steady 15 miles per hour. Despite its mobility, the kangaroo is unable to walk backwards. If the kangaroo is threatened, or senses danger nearby, it will pound the ground with its feet to warn other kangaroos that danger is near or approaching. They are not very active during most of the day, usually preferring to rest and come out to eat in the late afternoons and evenings when the land is much cooler. Kangaroos are social animals and usually travel in groups called “mobs”, which can usually have two to 100 kangaroos, for safety and to alert one another if danger nears. The kangaroo has been known to have good vision, great hearing that allows them to rotate their ears in all directions to hear incoming predators., and a superior sense of smell, which allows it to detect watering holes that could be miles away.
Diet and Predators: Kangaroos are herbivores, only eating vegetation. Their main diet consists of grass, shrubs, and leaves. They are also known to sometimes eat flowers, ferns, and moss. After eating, the kangaroo will actually spit up its food to chew it again in order to absorb all the nutrients a second time before completely swallowing it. Amazingly, kangaroos do not need much water to survive in the wild and can go up to a few weeks without it. A kangaroos’ natural predators range from Humans, who poach them, Dingoes, Wedge-tailed Eagles, and, the now extinct, Tasmanian Tigers. Wild dogs and foxes have been known prey on their species young rather than the adults themselves.
Breeding and Lifespan: Kangaroos mate throughout the year with no precise mating season however some peak birthrates happen in the summer with kangaroos with their pregnancies lasting between 31 – 37 days, depending on the species. These baby kangaroos are known as “joeys”, the same name as baby koalas, while the males are called bucks and the females a flyer”. A joey is born very small, only two centimeters long, and can weigh less than a gram. A female can birth one to two joeys, normally, but sometimes more. Directly after birth, a joey will crawl into its mothers’ pouch and attach to one of her teats for several weeks until it is strong enough to walk. After the joey reaches seven to 10 months of age, they will no longer need to return to their mothers’ pouch. The average lifespan of a kangaroo is actually short between eight to 12 years old in the wild and 20 years in captivity.