Earlier this year Graeme wrote a blog about wallabies. Today I thought I’d find out more about their cousins – the big bouncers of Australia – kangaroos.
It was only around 250 years ago that Europeans first clapped eyes on a kangaroo. Before then, we were suspicious of travellers’ stories of a human-sized creature with a deer’s head (sometimes two heads) that had no horns or antlers and hopped like a frog! In 1770, an officer on Captain Cook’s Endeavour shot a kangaroo and had its skin and skull sent back to England to be stuffed by taxidermists. If you weren’t lucky enough to get to see the actual real version (albeit dead), then your first viewing of a roo would have come from a 1772 painting by George Stubbs – see the image above.
Kangaroos are especially good at hopping. In fact, no other large animal uses this method of getting around. They can reach some pretty fast speeds too – up to 70 km/h in short bursts. In addition to their amazing hops, they are expert swimmers and will use this ability to escape from predators if need be. If the predator is hungry enough to follow the roo into the water, it may end up being drowned as a kangaroo will hold a predator under the water with its forepaws. Quite a formidable character, don’t you think?
As far as predators go, there are very few natural ones. Palaeontologists reckon that the Tasmanian tiger was one – but these are believed to be extinct. The problem for roos now are introduced species such as the dingo, fox, wild cats and both wild and domestic dogs – and of course, humans. However, they will fight back and eye witnesses have reported seeing kangaroos grab attacking dogs in their forepaws and then disembowel them with their hind legs.
I’m pleased to report that, unlike a lot of the animals we write about here at Nature Matters, kangaroos are of Least Concern on the Conservation status. I can only hope that it stays this way.
If you want to find out more about kangaroos, check out this article at LiveScience.