Kangaroos

By: Jamie Horne

The Kangaroo is one of Australia’s most famous native animals and has become an iconic symbol representing aspects of Australian life and culture, including being featured on the Australian Coat of arms, currency and postage stamps.

The Kangaroo family is indigenous to Australia and New Guinea but surprisingly there are several feral populations from introduced species to New Zealand, Hawaii and Great Britain.

The word kangaroo is attributed to Captain James Cook, who on the August 1770 (at that time a Lieutenant) at Cooktown, Australia made note of the local aboriginal word ‘gangurru’ which was transcribed in the logs of the HM Endeavour as ‘Kangooroo’ or ‘Kanguru’.

There are in total 69 species of the Kangaroo family of which the four main species are the Red Kangaroo, the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, the Western Gray Kangaroo and the Antilopine Kangaroo. All have large, powerful hind feet and legs with powerful tails, which the bucks (males) will often balance on and rear up on when fighting. The doe kangaroos (females) have pouches (marsupium) in which to rear their joeys. The gestation period for a kangaroo is 33 days and a Joey will spend up to 11 months in its mother pouch and reach sexual maturity between 18 – 24 months.

Some of the smaller species include wallabies, wallaroos, quoka’s, tree kangaroos and pademelons. Members of the Kangaroo family are marsupials from the Macropodoidea family which scientists have split into two sub groups being the Macropodidae (larger footed) and the Potoroidae (smaller footed).

Members of the Kangaroo family will vary in size form 500grams to 90 kilograms and have hoping speeds of between 20km (13mph) and 70km (44mph) for shorted distances. Kangaroos are prevalent in many Australian regional areas and are often seen around such tourist locations the Central and Northern Victorian towns of , and , Central Australia, Southern NSW, the Northern Territory and most of Western Australia

The kangaroo is culturally significant and features in many aspects of our lives. They feature in such film and print productions as Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Tom and Jerry, The Merry Melody cartoons and Winnie the Pooh. They also feature in sporting teams such as the Australian Rugby team (Kangaroos), Australian Soccer team (Socceroos), Australian Women’s Hockey team (Hockeyroos) and the Australian Men’s Basketball team (Boomers) as well as a number of other domestic Australian and international sporting teams.

Somewhat more controversially, and while the kangaroo has traditionally been a source of food for indigenous Australians, in recent years it has become more popular especially on the European market. Kangaroo’s produce a red meat which is considered to be low in fat and high in protein and has a strong gamey flavor. Most meat sold for human consumption is taken from the animals hind legs. Some kangaroo meat is also processed into dog food.

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