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Apparently the name 'kangaroo' originated when James Cook and his
crew were in north Queensland fixing their ship and discovered this
weird hopping animal. When the local Aborigines were asked what
the name of this animal was they replied something like ' kang-goo-roo'
. This was actually "gangurru" , from the Guugu Yimithirrr
language, which is still spoken by the Aboriginal people in the
area around Cooktown.
The kangaroo is a common marsupial from the Macropodoidea (big
foot) family, which also includes wallabies, tree-kangaroos, wallaroos,
pademelons and the quokka. There are 62 species in Australia &
Papua New Guinea that range in size from 1 kg - 90 kg and their
soft, woolly fur can vary in color from blue, grey, red, black or
yellow to brown, depending on the species. Females have a pouch
in which the young live and drink milk. Kangaroos can hop up to
70 km/h and jump distances of 9 metres. They live up to 6 years
in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity. Most kangaroos are
nocturnal (active at night). Some kangaroos are in danger of extinction,
but others are considered pests due to the way they damage crops
in large numbers and fill up waterholes that were intended for cattle.
Kangaroos are herbivores (plant-eaters) and eat grass, leaves
and roots and may graze in large mobs up to 14 hours a day, though
they will rest in the shade during the hottest part of the day.
They have specialised teeth for cropping grass and complex forestomachs
for the breakdown of plant fibre by fermentation, they swallow their
food without chewing it and later regurgitate a cud and chew it.
They need little water; they can go for months without drinking,
and they dig their own water wells. Kangaroos are unique in being
the only large animals that use hopping to get around, they can
walk at slow speeds and start hopping as speed increases. It takes
some effort to start the hopping motion but once cruising speed
is reached they use less energy than a similarly-sized animal that
is running. Kangaroos and wallabies have large, stretchy tendons
in their hind legs. They store elastic strain energy in the tendons
of their large hind legs, providing most of the energy required
for each hop by the spring action of the tendons rather than by
any muscular effort. This is true in all animal species which have
muscles connected to their skeleton through elastic elements such
as tendons, but the effect is more pronounced in kangaroos.
The Red Kangaroo prefers the arid and semi-arid regions of inland Australia, they are the largest species of marsupial and stand up to 2 metre high with a tail that is over a metre in length and is used as a balance mechanism. Red kangaroos can't walk and are limited to hopping as a means of locomotion. However, they are able to jump ten metres in distance and two metres in height. For short periods they can attain a speed of 50 km/h. They can maintain a speed of 20km/h for hours on end .
The tree kangaroo is only found in the rainforests of north Queensland (and New Guinea where it is knowns as 'man of the forest') , this shy animal lives up the trees and is not often seen.
Although the grey kangaroo can be a seasonal breeder, most female
kangaroos are usually continuously pregnant and can have 3 babies
at one time. One becoming mature and just out of the pouch, another
developing in the pouch and one embryo in pause mode, she has the
ability to freeze the development of an embryo until the previous
joey is able to leave the pouch.. There are 4 teats in the pouch
and each provides different milk for the different stages of development.
This is known as diapause, and will occur in times of drought and in areas with poor food sources.
The composition of the milk produced by the mother varies according to the needs of the joey. In addition, the mother is able to produce two different kinds of milk simultaneously for the newborn and the older joey still in the pouch. Roos are born partially developed after 30-40 days, hairless and blind. Immediately after birth, they crawl up the outside of their mother to the pouch where for the next 185 to 298 days they eat, sleep, and develop the rest of the way. When they fully develop they can leave the pouch, at this stage it is called a joey. During dry periods males will not produce sperm and females will only conceive if there has been enough rain to produce plenty of green vegetation.
Kangaroos are shy by nature, and in normal circumstances present no threat to humans. Male kangaroos often "box" amongst each other, playfully, for dominance, or in competition for mates. The dexterity of their forepaws is utilised in both punching and grappling with the foe, but the real danger lies in a serious kick with the hindleg. The sharpened toenails can disembowel an opponent. Large kangaroos can fight with the style of trained martial artists, even the tail is used in rotating jumps.
Kangaroos don't have a lot of predators these days, the Thylacine
or Tasmanian Tiger, considered to have once been a major natural
predator of the kangaroo, is now extinct. Other extinct predators
included the Marsupial Lion, Megalania and the Wonambi. But with
the arrival of Aborigines in Australia at least 50,000 years ago
and the introduction of the dingo about 5,000 years ago, kangaroos
have had to adapt. The barking of a dog can send a kangaroo into
a wild frenzy and when pursued by dogs they often head for water,
standing submerged to the chest, and attempting to drown their attacker
by holding him underwater. This has even happened in the middle
of Canberra where kangaroos come in to city parks to eat the green
grass and a simple walk in the park with the dog turned into traumatizing
experiences for some people who had their dog killed after it chased
a kangaroo. Another defensive tactic is to get their back to a tree
and kick at their adversary with their clawed hind feet, sometimes
with sufficient force to kill a man. There are a few records of
kangaroos attacking humans in their gardens and on golfcourses,
more on kangaroo
The only reliably documented case of a fatality from a kangaroo attack occurred in New South Wales, in 1936 when a hunter was killed when he tried to rescue his two dogs from a fight with a kangaroo.
Kangaroos have good eyesight but and excellent hearing but this
does not help them avoid traffic.
In outback areas, and sometimes even in and around cities, kangaroos can be a major hazard to traffic, or the traffic to them, depending on which side you choose to look at the problem.
Many Australian vehicles, especially those that do a lot of driving in remote areas, are fitted with roo bars to minimise damage caused by collision with kangaroos. You do need a solid bar on your car to get through a collision, many roo bars on cars are not designed to take the full impact of a decent size roo, and even then they may still hit your windscreen. Most importantly your radiator has a higher chance of surviving the impact so at least in a remote area you are not stuck and can keep driving to the nearest town. In the outback it is usually better to avoid driving at night, besides roos there are also cows that wander around freely.
Kangaroos have not evolved to learn about cars, when they are on the road they will freeze and stare in to your headlights, or while they are on the run they may try to get away but will often choose the path where they can see best at night, which is in the headlights in front of your car.
If you do happen to hit one you should see if it is a female and check her pouch for a surviving joey, in which case it can be brought to a wildlife sanctuary or animal rescue centre for rehabilitation.
You can take on the task of rearing a rescued joey yourself. The
rule-of-thumb says that if the joey is already covered with fur
at the time of the accident it stands a good chance of growing up
Lactose-free milk is essential, otherwise the joey may develop blindness. They will hop happily head first into a cloth bag when it is held in front of them approximately to the height where the mother's pouch would be, or hung on a doorknob. The joey's instinct is to "cuddle up", thereby endearing themselves to their keepers, but after hand-rearing a joey, it cannot usually be released into the wild and be expected to provide for itself.
Usually wildlife sanctuaries are willing to adopt kangaroos which are no longer practical to have at home.
Nowadays kangaroos do not only live in Australia, escaped pets
or zoo animals have established small wild populations in England
and in France. In the forests around Emance, west of Paris, kangaroos
have been part of life for several decades.
In 1990 police in the Netherlands found a man unconscious next to his motorcycle, when he woke up he said that he had hit a kangaroo so he was breathalyzed but later found not to be under influence of alcohol. A kangaroo had actually escaped from a circus performing in the area.
Early 2003 a kangaroo escaped from an Austrian circus and started hopping around Vienna, the local emergency number was flooded with calls but they didn't know what to think as people's descriptions didn't go further than strange beast or weird animal, only the tenth or so caller identified it as a kangaroo.
While nowadays you can get a roo burger in many tourist places
the consumption of their meat was banned for most of the 20th century.
It certainly would have been much better for the Australian environment
had people always eaten kangaroos rather than beef as the altering
of the landscape by grazing cows has done some serious environmental
damage. Kangaroos also emit less greenhouse gasses than cows! Despite
having a similar diet to cows, who release large quantities of methane,
kangaroos release virtually none. The hydrogen byproduct of fermentation
is instead converted into acetate, which is then used to provide
further energy. Scientists are interested in the possibility of
transferring the bacteria responsible from kangaroos to cows, as
the greenhouse gas effect of methane is 23 times more than that
of carbon dioxide.
Kangaroo meat comes in a wide range of cuts and is widely available from supermarkets throughout Australia. It is very high in protein and iron but low in fat, usually less than 2% which is less than most other red meats so it should be cooked carefully to avoid drying out during cooking so it is important to follow a few simple steps to retain the moisture in the meat;
- Soak meat in oil for at least 15 min prior to cooking, then place in
a very hot pan and quickly turn over to ensure all sides are 'seared',
(browned). This will seal the moisture inside the meat.
- When pan frying the temperature can then be turned down a bit and the meat cooked to medium rare. If roasting it can be transferred to the oven, but do not cook further than medium rare.
Guide to cooking times
Stir Fry: (5mm thick) 1 minute maximum
Kebabs: (1.5cm cubes) 2 minute per side (leave space between cubes)
Medallions: Steaks (2.5cm thick) 2-3 minutes per side.
Roasts: Brown in pan then cook in pre-heated oven for 8-12 minutes per 500gms at 220 degrees Celsius or 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius (thick roasts may take longer than thin regardless of weight).
Kangaroo mince can be cooked exactly as other minces.
Did you know that millions of kangaroos, or around 18000 a day, are shot
for meat and their skin? World famous soccer player David Beckham runs
around on kangaroo skin soccer boots sponsored by Adidas.
California is the only state in the USA where it is illegal to bring in kangaroo products like kangaroo skin, this led to a situation in January 2008 where David Beckham was supposed to come and play a game in California but could not bring his favourite shoes with him, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger got involved in this too but we have not heard the outcome of this scenario yet...
You can read more about this cruel kangaroo industry on www.savethekangaroo.com
The most famous kangaroo of all times as we all know
is Skippy, even though his TV series only ran until 1971, after
more than three decades he is still world famous.
In September 2003 a real life version of him saved the life of farmer Len Richards of Morwell, eastern Victoria by alerting his family that he was lying unconscious nearby. He had been checking a tree in a paddock about 300 metres from the house during stormy weather, when he was hit by a falling branch and knocked unconscious. The RSPCA said the 10-year-old western grey, known as "Lulu", should be nominated for a national bravery award and later she was awarded the National Animal Valor Award. Not only that, Lulu now has her own website www.luluthekangaroo.com.au where you can buy Lulu T-shirts, Lulu books, Lulu bumperstickers etc.
Feel free to add some more kangaroo info to this page !