There are actually a few different kinds of kangaroos in Australia, ranging from the popular grey kangaroos of the east and west, to the lesser-known antilopine kangaroo of the north. Interestingly enough, grey kangaroos can live up to 18 years, although some kangaroos have been found to live up to 20 years. Kangaroos in captivity usually have a lifespan of about 23 years.
The word ‘kangaroo’ comes from an aboriginal language – Guugu Yimidhirr. The grey kangaroo is known as ‘gangurru’. Individual kangaroos are also known by many names. Males are called boomers, bucks or jacks, while females are called flyers, does or jills. A baby is called a joey and a whole group of kangaroos is known as a mob, a troop or a court.
Grey kangaroos are part of the Macropodidae (macropod meaning big foot) family. It’s no wonder then that they have big toes too! Their hind feet are made of two joined toes and one big toe with a sharp claw that can be used as a weapon. (photo: Kristina Postnikova)
Did you know that kangaroos are the only big animals who can only move by hopping? Thanks to their large feet, grey kangaroos can jump over 8m far in a single leap and 1.8m high. Even though they can move quickly from side to side, they cannot jump backwards because of their thick, muscular tails.
5.As snug as a bug…
Did you know that a newborn kangaroo is less than 2cm long, hairless and blind? He immediately crawls through his mom’s thick fur into her pouch. Called a pouch embryo, he will stay inside his mom’s pouch until around four months when he is old enough to take short trips out. Only after 10 months will he be old enough to leave his mom’s pouch for good. Female kangaroos can also carry two joeys born a year apart. She then makes two different types of milk for each joey. (photo: Kitch Bain)
Grey kangaroos are herbivores, grazing on grass, shrubs, tree leaves and shoots. Adapted especially for Australia’s harsh environment, kangaroos can survive long periods without water. Grey kangaroos prefer to live among the trees, although they will go out to open grasslands for grazing. Eastern grey kangaroos usually live along the coast in damp forest and scrub.
7.Fancy a dip?
Grey kangaroos are excellent swimmers! While on land, these agile creatures use both legs simultaneously to hop around, but in water they paddle with their feet, in a way similar to the ‘doggy’ paddle. So how do they keep their joeys safe? Kangaroo females can suck in a muscle to ‘close’ their pouches while swimming, though not for long. (above photo: worldswildlifewonders)
Grey kangaroos are very powerful and when threatened, they will pound their feet in warning. Fighting between kangaroos is known as ‘boxing’. Standing upright, males will paw at each other’s heads, shoulders and chests, ‘boxing’ each other by balancing on their tails and kicking each other in the abdomens. (photo: Kjuuurs)
9.Don’t make a sound
Kangaroos are mostly silent creatures. Some have been heard to grunt, cough and hiss, while females have been heard making clicking or clucking sounds to call their young. Kangaroos are also among the few who can swivel their ears to catch tiny sounds – just like cats!
The kangaroo is one of the animals featured on Australia’s coat of arms. They also feature on coins, the Australian Made logo, sports teams’ names and mascots, as well as Australia’s national airline, Qantas.