Like koalas and opossums, kangaroos belong to a unique group of mammals called marsupials, which carry their young in special body pockets called pouches. Click on the icons below to learn where koalas live, what they eat, how they hunt and how they reproduce. You can even pet a kangaroo in Zoobooks Virtual Zoo!
Kangaroos graze like deer, hop like rabbits, and go without water like camels. But they are not related to any of these animals. Like koalas and opossums, kangaroos belong to a unique group of mammals called marsupials, which carry their young in special body pockets called pouches. The big kangaroos are teh largest marsupials in the world!
As grazing animals, kangaroos do not hung. Instead, they are hunted by other animals. Kangaroos would rather flee than fight. If caught, however, they become fierce fighters, using the sharp claws on their hind feet. To escape a pack of dingoes, a kangaroo may hop into the nearest body of water and swim until it is chest deep. Then as each dingo approaches, the kangaroo clutches it to it’s body or pushes it down under its feet, causing the dingo to drown.
Most kangaroos are nighttime feeders, grazing on wild grasses anytime from dusk to dawn. If it is cloudy and cool, they also may feed during the day. Kangaroos get most of the water they need from the different types of grass, shrubs, leaves, stems, and shoots they eat. Some species can go for weeks or even months without water.
A tiny newborn kangaroo makes an amazing journey across its mother’s stomach to reach the safety of her pouch. No bigger than a bumblebee, blind, and using only its forelimbs, the baby hauls itself in a snake-like motion over the six inches from the birth canal to the pouch. Once inside, it immediately wraps its mouth around one of the mother’s four nipples. It doesn’t let go for three months! The young joey will not leave the pouch again until six months of age, and will not leave the pouch for good until it is eight to ten months old. Even then, it will still poke its head in from time to time for a drink of milk.
Kangaroos live only in Australia. People are doing a lot in i Australia to try and preserve a workable balance between humans and kangaroos.
Of the many kinds of kangaroos, about 20–mostly the smaller species– are threatened. They have been driven from their feeding areas by domestic animals and by mining, agriculture, and lumber interests. Some are being preyed upon by introduced animals such as the red fox and the common house cat. The larger kangaroos have the opposite problem. They are reproducing so rapidly that population surveys have to be taken and kangaroos culled. For these species, scientists are studying ways of introducing ‘kangaroo birth control’ into salt licks. Australians are working hard to find the proper balance between people and all kangaroo species.