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The red kangaroo is the largest marsupial. It lives exclusively throughout inland Australia in grasslands, shrublands, and salt pans. Both sexes have black markings on the side of their muzzles. The male is red and is referred to as a “boomer,” and the female is called “blue flier.” The young are bluish-gray.
Kangaroos have long hind legs and feet and a long, thick, tapered tail. Strong tendons in the hind legs allow the kangaroo to jump 6 to 8 feet (1.8–2.4 m) high and leap distances of 12 to 14 feet (3.7–4.3 m). It can reach speeds up to 35–40 miles (56–64 km) per hour for short distances, but its normal pace is around 8 miles (13 km) per hour.
The forearms of the kangaroo have little fur on them and carry blood vessels close to the surface of the skin. In very hot weather, kangaroos lick their forearms to cool themselves. They also pant to get rid of excess heat.
Red kangaroos live in groups called mobs. Each mob is made up of 100 or more kangaroos and is led by the dominant male. Mainly nocturnal, kangaroos eat grass and short green plants. They like to live near a water supply but can go long periods without water if necessary.
Males fighting for dominance use their forearms to box one another. They balance with their tails and kick with their hind feet, and are capable of ripping open flesh. The kick can be so hard it can actually debowl their enemy. Most times, they are peaceful and would rather hop away than fight. They have few enemies except the dingo and man.
A female kangaroo is fertile throughout the entire year. Gestation is little more than a month. When the young kangaroo, called a joey, is born, it is very tiny (bean size) and weighs only about l/35 of an ounce (0.9 g). It crawls inside its mother’s pouch and attaches itself to a nipple to nurse. It will stay there for about eight months before venturing out. By this time, it weighs around seven pounds (3 kg) and will continue to nurse for another six months. The mother often has more than one baby in the pouch at a time—an older one that goes in and out and a younger baby still attached to a nipple. Older joeys need fatrich milk while the infants need more carbohydrates. In order to fulfill these nutritional needs, God created the mother to be able to produce two types of milk at the same time.
The red kangaroo is considered a pest by farmers because of the other farm animals having to compete for the grasslands. It is nearly impossible to build a fence that will keep the kangaroos out.
Marsupialiam • Macropodidae • Macropus rufus
Height: 5 feet (1.5 m)
Weight: 180 pounds (82 kg)
Length: 65 inches (165 cm)
Life Span: 12–18 years
Special Design Feature: The mother can produce two different kinds of milk to meet the needs of more than one baby. A joey that is still nursing but has left the pouch gets fat-rich milk and the smaller baby gets more carbohydrates in its milk.
Did You Know? The red kangaroo is the largest living marsupial.