Kangaroos: Interesting Facts for Kids about Australia’s National Animal

Habitat refers to the natural home of animals and plants in which they can genuinely grow and reproduce. And habitat is one thing that characterises animals. Some animals can be found on every continent such as otters. Some animals have habitats on some but not on every continent like elephants. Elephants are native to both Africa and Asia.

Other animals are native to much smaller areas like the kangaroo. Kangaroos are found in large numbers mainly in Australia as well as New Guinea only. As of 2019, there were around 42.8 million kangaroos in Australia alone. In 2013, the number was up to 53.2 million.

Such a high concentration of kangaroos has made it the national animal of Australia. The kangaroo also appears on some of the Australian coins.

Some people; however, mistake wallabies for kangaroos as they both look quite similar. But kangaroos and wallabies are two different animals. The main difference is in the size. Kangaroos are obviously way bigger than wallabies. They are much faster as well.

That said, the kangaroo is incredibly distinct and different from many other animals. And this is what we are talking about today.

So let’s hop into it.

The Kangaroo

We might think that the kangaroo is a single species. But, in fact, there are four kangaroo species: the red kangaroo, the antilopine kangaroo, the eastern grey kangaroo, and the western grey kangaroo. All of them are found in Australia. The red kangaroo is the largest species of the four.

Interestingly, kangaroos hop, just like hares and rabbits. They can hop up to eight metres at a time. This is one thing that makes the kangaroo quite a unique animal. That is because no other large animal uses hoping to move. On the other hand, kangaroos cannot move backwards.

In this very article, we are going to discuss the red kangaroo exclusively.

Appearance

One look at the red kangaroo and we can tell how distinct it is.

Red kangaroos are so big with males and females having significant differences that set them apart. First off, their names. A female kangaroo is called flyer, doe, or jill. A male is a boomer and a baby is a joey.

Generally speaking, red kangaroos have eyes on both sides of the face. This provides them with a vision range of 300°. This is bigger than the owl vision range which is known for its ability to move its head 270°.

Red kangaroos also have long ears, pointed like those of a donkey, as well as a square-shaped nose. Their tails are long and strong. They serve as the fifth limb, helping the animal create more balance when standing upright.

Now let’s discuss male and female differences. Adult male red kangaroos are usually 1.3 to 1.6 m long. They have long thin tails of around 1.2 m in length. On the other hand, females are much smaller. They only have a maximum total body length of 105 m and their tails are usually 65-85 cm long.

Females weigh less than males. A female red kangaroo weighs as low as 18 kg and up to 40 kg while males’ weight ranges from 55 to 90 kg. The largest male red kangaroo was found to be 91 kg. It stood 2.1 m tall.

Another thing that tells males and females apart is their fur colour. Males usually have short reddish-brown fur while that of females is often bluish-grey. Besides that, females also have pouches in which their babies develop while males do not possess pouches. 

Like the giraffe, red kangaroos have an insulating fur layer. This, along with other changes the animal’s body does, can keep the kangaroo’s internal temperature at 36°C no matter how different the external temperature gets.

Red kangaroos move around by walking on their four limbs. They also hop, covering a distance of up to nine metres in a single leap. While doing this, they can reach a height of three metres at maximum. A red kangaroo leaping speed can reach 60 km/h at maximum.

kangaroos LearningMole

Feeding

Red kangaroos mainly feed on grass and one single flower: the forb. They eat plants even when they are dry and brown-coloured. Red kangaroos living in different areas in Australia eat different plants, according to what is available in their habitat. When the food is generally scarce during the dry season, red kangaroos tend to be less picky in their food. 

Red kangaroos also tend to go far away from their home range, sometimes up to 30 km far to find better food.

The large size of red kangaroos provides protection against predation. That does not mean they do not get attacked by predators. In fact, they seem to be possible prey for some predators such as crocodiles. And Australia is home to the largest crocodile in the world: the saltwater crocodile.

That said, kangaroos can still defend themselves from attackers. Thanks to their strong legs and feet claws, they can kick and even punch their enemy.

In addition, red kangaroos are unexpectedly very skilled swimmers. This provides them with an escape when threatened by a predator they cannot confront. And if the predator went after them in the water, red kangaroos would try to drown the predator using their paws.

Breeding

Red kangaroos reach maturity around two years after birth. That is when they are able to mate and reproduce. There is no specific season for red kangaroos to mate. It can just happen any time of the year, unlike with many other animals.

A female red kangaroo’s pregnancy is quite complicated. It happens over several stages and lasts for almost 7.5 months.

At first, a baby at around four weeks of age is born. It cannot see, has no hair, and is as short as a few centimetres. Right after birth, this tiny baby crawls upward on his mother’s thick fur to reach the pouch.

The baby stays in the pouch feeding and growing for 190 days until it is large and almost developed. Before leaving the pouch, the joey usually pushes its head out of the pouch so as to get familiar with the environment. Once it feels safe, it goes out.

kangaroos LearningMole

Another thing that is extraordinary about the kangaroo’s pregnancy is the female’s ability to delay birth. Female red kangaroos can mate again after the birth of the baby and its moving into the pouch. If the female happens to get pregnant again with another baby while the first one is still growing in her pouch, she can delay the birth of the new baby until the joey is as developed as able to leave the pouch.

Social life

Red kangaroos are quite social. They like to gather in large groups, sometimes having up to 1500 members. On a smaller scale, red kangaroos live in groups of usually two to four individuals. Almost all of the group members are females and their offspring. Sometimes, males also join groups of females.

Generally speaking, red kangaroos are mostly peaceful. However, males sometimes fight one another to win the heart of a female during the mating season. In these fights, kangaroos use boxing as a fighting technique. Then, if the fight heats up, they start kicking. Here, the strong tails play an important role in supporting the kangaroos’ bodies while kicking. That is how they do not fall down.

Such fights may result in some injuries but they also establish the winner’s dominance among other males. It gives him a higher chance of being chosen as a groom by a female.

Interestingly, those dominant males can be overthrown by other stronger males who rise to power. In such a case, the overthrown male is abandoned by others.

The white kangaroo

As there are white tigers, there are white kangaroos too. And the reason for that is melanin. 

Melanin is a dark, brown to black pigment found in all organisms. It is responsible for producing dark hair, dark skin, and dark eye irises in both people and animals.

Individuals who are white-skinned have a low level of melanin. When born with very low to no melanin at all, individuals are white all over. They have white to creamy hair, white eyelashes, and extremely white skin.

This is called albinism. Albinism is caused by some rare genetic mutation. 

In a previous article on learningmole, we mentioned that under some rare conditions, two beautiful, orange tigers can breed a white albino tiger. Well, the same case happens with kangaroos. 

The white-coloured kangaroos are a result of either albinism or another process called leucism. If it is albinism, the change of melanin ratios affects the fur, skin, and eyes of the animal. If leucism is the reason, only the fur turns white while the skin and eyes remain dark. 

That said, white kangaroos are quite rare. The rare genetic mutation that produces them happens once in every 50,000 to 100,000 individuals. That is why sighting them was very rare too. In addition, young white kangaroos are usually preyed on by predators. This contributes to their numbers being small.

Secondly, the mere physical structure of white kangaroos makes it challenging for them to survive. For instance, they have poor eyesight caused by the lack of melanin in their eyes. In fact, all albinos do not see as well as normally-sighted people for the same reason. White kangaroos do not hear very well either.

In addition, the white skin makes white kangaroos more exposed to sun damage which can lead to skin cancer.

But there is still a chance to help white kangaroos survive and breed to increase their numbers. First, when there are very few predators around, white kangaroos are not as threatened. So the joeys can survive and the adults can live longer to breed.

Another thing that can help white kangaroos stay alive is, as strange as it may sound, humans. While we are used to humans threatening and killing animals, they seem to have different behaviour when sighting a white kangaroo.

That is because the animal’s uncommon white coat captures people’s interest. Many people were seen feeding and providing help to a white kangaroo they sighted. This happens when the drought hits and forces white kangaroos to leave their habitat and move closer to humans in search of food and water.

Keeping albino kangaroos in captivity is another way to take care of and breed them.

Conclusion

Kangaroos are exceptional animals that possess physical traits rarely found in other animals.

In this article, we discussed some interesting facts about the large leaping animal. We learned that there are four main species of kangaroos and it was the red kangaroo which we solely discussed in this article.

We have also mentioned some differences between red kangaroo males and females. For instance, they are quite distinguishably unalike with males being larger in size and darker in colour than females. Females are also uniquely characterised by their pouches which are not found in males. Females use these pouches to grow their babies. Such a thing is rarely found in other species.

In addition, we explored the red kangaroo’s social life. We learned that males sometimes get into fights to secure their chance of mating with a specific female. This is also the same way winning males show off their dominance among other weaker males.

Last but not least, we took a glimpse of the white kangaroos, a special breed of kangaroos resulting from a rare genetic mutation. Such beautiful animals are quite rare due to threats imposed on them by predators. Furthermore, their lack of good sight and hearing senses makes them more vulnerable. However, we can still help the white kangaroos survive by feeding them or keeping them in captivity.

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