The Red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) is not only the largest kangaroo but it is also the largest living marsupial. Almost everything about this specie is big. They have the unique ability to leap 25 ft (8 m) in a single bound. The kangaroo inhabits all throughout mainland Australia except that it is not found in the fertile regions across northern rainforests and east coast of the country. It occurs in much of central Australia, areas that receive less than 500 mm average rainfall each year.
Red Kangaroo Facts For Kids
Identification and Size
- Most red kangaroos display pale red to brick red color but all species are not really red. Some of the male kangaroos are blue-gray. Females are mostly blue-grey which is why they are called blue-fliers.
- In some areas both male and female are reddish as they live up to their name.
- As against other species, the adult red kangaroos have white undersides and their muzzle is circled by black and white patched that runs from the corner of the mouth to the base of ear.
- They have long pointed ears with males are larger than females.
- The head-and-body length of male kangaroos is 935 – 1,400 mm (average length 1,150 mm) while females are 745 – 1,100 mm (average length 1,000 mm) long. It does not include tail.
- The males have 710 – 1,000 mm long tail while females’ tail is 645 – 900 mm in length.
- The males weigh around 22 – 85 kg (average weight 66 kg) while females are 17 – 35 kg (average weight 26.5 kg) in weight.
- Thanks to the muscular band present in the pouch that keeps it firmly closed. It does not only prevent the young kangaroo from falling out but it also makes sure that the temperature inside remains 32o C (90o F).
- The largest red kangaroo ever recorded at 2,100 mm and the specimen weighed 91 kg (201 lb).
The red kangaroo likes to make home in a variety of habitats such as grasslands, deserts, Meluga, and mallee scrub. It is extremely fond of living in open plains habitats and it rarely occurs in regions that lacks shades of scattered trees.
Red kangaroos move in groups but they are semi-nomadic and this movement is limited by the stock fences.
Feeding Ecology and Diet
- The red kangaroo is a grazing marsupial and it likes to eat green matter such as grasses and dicotyledonous plants but the distribution is largely determined by the availability of food. However bizarre the place may look; the fact is, the more the food is available the more kangaroos show up.
- The kangaroo is known to feed at night but it also grazes in the early hours of evening or early mornings.
- Like other kangaroo species, red kangaroo’s stomach is also adapted to digest food rich in cellulose.
- They can go by several days without drinking fresh water provided the green herbage is available. That is to say red kangaroos make up their water deficiency by eating green herbage especially when water is not readily available.
- They do frequently drink water in stock watering places.
- In moderate temperatures, red kangaroos bask in the sun but under hot conditions they find out shadows.
- Red kangaroos will travel 25 – 30 km to areas that offer much more grazing grounds.
- For red kangaroos the most challenging task is to walk. In order to walk they must push their hind legs forward while lifting their body on their short arms and powerful tail. Indeed it is quite tricky.
- The male kangaroos are known to jump 9 m (30 ft) in a single bound.
- They can run as fast as 56 km/h (35 mph). Red kangaroos cruise at a speed of 20 – 25 km/h (13 – 16 mph).
- Kangaroos do not have any choice to move except by hopping because by doing so it can make its body to work efficiently.
- Although they like to stay in areas offering remaining vegetation yet they do go in search of fresh plants especially after it rains.
- Red kangaroos are very good swimmers and they can flee into the water to escape the predator.
- The female red kangaroo reaches the maturity age in 15 to 20 months while males become mature in 2 years. The maturity age differs in regions even within the same species. It depends upon the environmental conditions.
- The adult kangaroos begin to show colors after 2 years age.
- Once they become 2 years old both male and female continues to increase their size. At this stage they cut more molar teeth.
- The female remains in oestrus cycle for about 35 days after which it becomes fertile and remains so throughout the year. During this period the mother will not feed her young.
- The young Joey (baby kangaroo) is born precisely 33 days after mating. The female is ready to mate one or two days after giving birth.
- Before the female gives birth it usually cleans out her pouch simply by licking.
- The Joey weighs less than 1 kg at birth and is completely hairless.
- The Joey will stay in pouch for about 235 days.
- The gestation period lasts from 5 – 6 months.
- The lifespan of red kangaroos is up to 22 years in the wild while in captivity they can live up to 16 years. Dingoes and eagles are the most common predators of Joeys.
- Once the Joey attains 4 – 5 kg weight, it leaves the pouch. From now on it will follow its mother. However, the job is not over yet; her mother will suckle her baby for another 4 months.
Population and Groups
- The Red kangaroo’s population varies over the range. On an average the group leader is the male, a dominant one, followed by the number adult females along with the number of young kangaroos.
- The group may be as small as being consist of only two animals and it can also go up to several hundred individuals.
- There are many small groups of young kangaroos in a group. The scarred males often live a solitary life. This explains why almost half of the young born are not able to reach two years of age. They are hunted by the predators. Only a few of them can make it to 20 years or so.
- Ninety percent (90%) of kangaroos die out in their young age.
- There was a time when 2,000,000 red kangaroos were present in the New South Wales. These numbers belong to 1975 however in the same year authorities issued a license to slaughter these species for food. As it turns out, around 48,000 kangaroos got killed in 1975 thereby reducing the population by 2.3 per cent.
- Queensland offers a much suitable habitat to red kangaroos. In 1975, around 95,000 kangaroos had been killed legally.
Learn more: Kangaroo Facts For Kids
Caughley, G. R. C. Sinclair and G. R. Wilson (1977). Numbers, distribution and harvesting rate of kangaroos on the inland plains of New South Wales, Aus. Wild. Res. 4, 99–108.
Frith, H. J. and G. B. Sharman (1964). Breeding in wild populations of the red kangaroo. CSIR O Wild/. Res. 9, 86- 1 1 4 .
Croft, D. B. 1980. Behavior of Red Kangaroos (Macropus rufus) in northwestern N. S. W. Australia. Australian Mammology 4: 5–58.