kangaroo in AustraliaScience 

The Kangaroo: Australia’s most recognizable animal

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Endemic to Australia, kangaroos are one of the most recognizable animals in the world. A mainstay of the Australian coat of arms and featuring on different parts of the country’s currency, its aviation industry and the symbol emblazoned on its Air Force, it is truly a major part of Australian culture and its’ national image.

kangaroo warning sign
kangaroo warning sign

There are four separate families of large kangaroo as well as several smaller ones, with the Australian government estimating that the entire species has a population over 34 million individuals, which spans across the country. Each kangaroo family has their own small unique and distinguishing characteristics, with the most distinctive being their size and color.

kangaroos in wild
kangaroos in wild

The major families are usually separated by location, these include the red kangaroo, the eastern grey kangaroo and western grey kangaroo. Smaller families, like wallabies or tree-kangaroos, are also dispersed across Australia and its’ multitude of different climates, spanning from the outback to the tropical forests of North Queensland.

 

eastern grey kangaroo
eastern grey kangaroo; credit wiki
kangaroo in Australia
kangaroos in Australia
western grey kangaroo
western grey kangaroo: Photograph by JarrahTree…commons.wikimedia.org
wallaby
wallaby
female with baby (joey)
female with baby (joey)

They move thanks to their large powerful hind legs, which they use for leaping; their muscular tails serving as a counterweight balance to ensure equilibrium. Large male kangaroos can grow up to 2 metres tall (6ft7) and weigh 90 kilograms (200 lb), whilst wallabies are often more than half their size and a lot less aggressive. Female kangaroos have a pouch in which they keep their young — named joeys — and is also where they complete their postnatal development.

kangaroo movement illustration
kangaroo movement illustration

As aforementioned, kangaroos have a very large population in Australia, and aren’t considered to be in any danger, with the IUCN Red List describing the species as being of Least Concern. The marsupials are actively hunted for their meat and leather hide. Additionally, they are often culled to protect farming lands or cattle grazing grounds, as they are often considered a pest.

kangaroo lying down
kangaroo lying down

Kangaroo meat is very lean, and has been touted as a healthier alternative to other red meats, although not a prevalent part of the average Australian’s diet, it can be easily purchased at any supermarket, and has started to be exported overseas. Apart from the red kangaroo, the family is known to be fairly docile, and is usually present in petting zoos, with the smaller wallabies often able to be approached in the wild. However, these animals are also known for their boxing, which they often put on display as a show of force between dominant males, but there have been few recorded cases in literature of attacks on humans.

Interesting article about Minke Whales.

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