Red KangarooScientific Name Macropus rufus

Conservation Status Least Concern

Appearance

Their short coat is generally coloured red on male kangaroos and a bluish-grey colour in females. In some instances, they are the opposite colours though. Their belly and the lower portions of the limbs have white fur. Running from the corner of the mouth to the eye is a white stripe. They have bare skin on the nose which is a dusky colour. The skin on the stomach is thicker to defend them against kicks during fights.

Males are significantly larger than females. They measure 93.5-140cm (3.1-4.6ft) long. Females measure 74.5-110cm (2.5-3.6ft). Males are capable of standing 2m (6.6ft) tall when upright. The tail adds between 71 and 100cm (2.4-3.3ft) to the length of a male. It adds 64.5-90cm (2.2-3ft) to the length of a female.

They weigh between 22 and 85kg (48 and 187lb) for males with females significantly smaller at between 17 and 35kg (37 and 77lb).

Lifespan

The red kangaroo can live for up to 27 years.

Diet

Red kangaroos are herbivores. They feed upon grasses, shrubs and forbs. They prefer green foliage.

They need very little amounts of water. This is a result of extremely effective kidneys and the ability to get their water from the plants they eat.

Habitat

Australia is the native home of the red kangaroo. Here they can be found across every state, and territory apart from Tasmania. They mostly keep to the centre of the continent away from the coastal areas.

As human settlements, have expanded so has the range of the red kangaroo. Dams allow them to expand their range in to areas where there previously was not enough water.

Red kangaroos make their home in arid and semi-arid habitats such as mulga, Mallee and saltbush scrubs, grasslands, woodlands and deserts. Their preference is for areas of open country with some trees for shade.

Reproduction

Red kangaroos can breed year-round. This will only occur when there is lush green vegetation though. Periods of extended drought will lead to males and females becoming infertile.

Males will ‘box’ to win the mating rights with females. These displays involve opponents grabbing each other by the shoulder and kicking the stomach of their opponent with the hind limbs. When doing this, they use the tail for balance.

These animals exhibit embryonic diapause. Once a joey is born they can become pregnant within 2 days. This joey develops to between 70 and 100 cells before stopping development until the current joey leaves the pouch or dies.

Following a successful mating it will take 33 days for the baby to be born. At this point it is furless, pink, blind and the size of a grain of rice. They weigh just 1g (0.03 oz). They climb up the stomach of the mother from the birth canal to Red Kangaroothe pouch in just 3 minutes.

Here it will attach to a teat. It spends the next 8 months developing there. The mother regularly cleans the pouch eating the young’s faeces and urine which allows 1/3 of the water in their milk to be recycled. As they approach the end of their time in the pouch they will stick their head out for the first time.

At 6 months, old the joey takes its first steps out of the pouch. They only emerge for short periods and hop back in if they sense danger. For up to one year they will stick their head in to the pouch for safety. The mother has four teats. Each provides different types of milk for the different stages of development.

Sexual maturity is reached between 1 ½ years and 2 years in captivity with females maturing roughly four months ahead of males. In captivity maturity is delayed to between 30 and 38 months. This can be further delayed in arid regions or during drought when water is scarce.

Behaviour

Red kangaroos form groups of 2-10 animals. Most are made up of females and their young. Generally, they also include one male. Larger mobs may form to feed together and then disperse.

Most of their activity occurs during the dusk and dawn periods when they will forage for food. During the day, they find an area of shade in which to rest.

As a large animal, the red kangaroo has few predators. Dingoes and humans are their main predators with some large raptors capable of taking joeys. The introduced red fox and feral cat also present a threat to juveniles. When threatened, they will use their powerful kick as defence.

When moving, the  red kangaroo can hop at up to 65km/hr (40mph). They are also capable of swimming short distances.

Quick Facts

The red kangaroo is the largest kangaroo and the largest of the marsupials.

Kangaroo meat is regularly sold in Australia as an alternative to domestic farmed animals.

Photo Credits

Top – By Bardrock (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom – By Paul Holloway from Birmingham, United Kingdom (Roo  Uploaded by Fæ) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons