KINGDOM: Animalia (Animals)
PHYLUM: Chordata (Possessing a notochord)
CLASS: Mammalia (Mammals)
ORDER: Diprotodontia (Marsupials)
FAMILY: Macropodidae (Kangaroos, wallabies, tree-kangaroos, pademelons, quokkas)
SUB-FAMILY: Macropodinae (Kangaroos, wallabies, and related species)
GENUS: Macropus (Kangaroos, wallabies and wallaroos)
SPECIES: Macropus rufus (Red Kangaroo)
Red kangaroos are endemic to Australia and occur over most of the dry, inland, central part of Australia.
Red kangaroos are the biggest marsupials. Male red kangaroo fur is typically a reddish-brown colour, whilst female fur tends towards more of a blue-grey, with the underside being a lighter grey to white colour. They have an enlogated, mouse-like face with rabbit like ears. The front legs are shorter than the hind limbs and have clawed paws. The hind legs are long and powerful. The long, muscular tail can support the kangaroo’s body weight.
Red kangaroos prefer arid and semi-arid habitats. They are found in scrubland, grassland, woodland and desert, tending to prefer open grassy plains with scattered trees for shade and shelter.
Kangaroos are herbivores (plant eaters). By eating moisture filled succulents, they can go long periods without drinking water. Red kangaroos will eat grasses, herbs and shrubs, leaves, wood, bark, or stems with a preference for green feed, such as newly sprouted grasses.
They live in small groups of up to 10 individuals, called “mobs”. These mobs are made up mostly of females and their young, with one or a few males. Larger groups of these mobs may gather to feed or drink. Red kangaroos are nomadic, wandering around within a well-defined home range of between 14 to 97 square km. They don’t seem to be territorial, with males fighting only over females that come into heat.
Red kangaroos are polygynous (males will have more than one female mate at a time). There is no permanent association of males and females, and males compete for access to females. This competition sometimes leads to “boxing” matches where males will hit each other with the forepaws and kick with their hind legs.
After a gestation period of about 33 days, a single joey is born. The joey will attach to one of the nipples in its mother’s pouch, and won’t leave the pouch until it’s about 8 months old. The joey may still suckle for 3-4 months after leaving the pouch. Independence is reached at about a year old. Red kangaroos are sexually mature at about 15 months – 2 years of age. They can live up to 27 years.
Red kangaroos have few natural predators, although joeys are sometimes preyed on by dingos and raptors.
Although they are still an abudant species, the threats faced by red kangaroos include habitat loss and hunting.
Did you know?
- Female red kangaroos have the unique ability to delay birth of their baby until their previous joey has left the pouch
- Kangaroos are marsupials, which means that their young are born immature & they develop further in the safety of a pouch
- Females are often called ‘blue flyers’ due to the blue-grey colouring of their fur
- Female kangaroos have pouches on their tummy, whilst males also have a thick skin in the same area to protect them from kicks
- Like cows, kangaroos regurgitate their food and re-chew it before it is ready to be totally digested