Red kangaroos, found in mainland Australia, are the largest of all kangaroos. First described by French zoologist A.G. Desmarest in 1822, they are the largest terrestrial mammal in Australia and the largest extant marsupial. These marsupials are distinguished by the black and white patches on their cheeks, broad white strips extending from their mouth to ears, and long and powerful hind legs and feet. They use their tails along with their legs to walk and run.
Body and Coloration: Red kangaroos have two forelimbs with tiny claws and two hindlimbs for jumping. They use their strong tail to create a tripod when standing upright.
The male and female red kangaroos have different body colors. The bodies of the males are red-brown, and the bottom side and limbs are pale buff, whereas those of the females have a blue-gray color with a brown tinge and a pale grey bottom.
Range and Distribution
One can find red kangaroos throughout western and central Australia. Mostly they are sedentary with a well-defined home range. Their weekly home range can be 258-560 ha (640–1380 acres). During adverse conditions, they travel about 25–30 km for food.
They mainly reside in deserts, grasslands, and scrublands and are found near places with a lot of forage. Red kangaroos live in open spaces with some trees for shade. During the day, they rest under small saltbushes or mulga bushes.
The diet of red kangaroos mainly consists of green vegetation like fresh grasses, leaves, roots, scrubs, and forbs.
Red kangaroos are primarily nocturnal. They are active at night and twilight and rest in the shade during the day.
When they are active, they spend their time grazing.
They live in large groups with as many as 1500 members. But an average group or “mob” has 2-10 members.
Their community is male-dominated.
Suppose a predator pursues them into the water. In that case, the red kangaroos use their forepaws to hold their attacker underwater and drown it.
Red kangaroos living in forests have an average lifespan of 6-8 years. The ones kept in captivity, like in a zoo, can live up to 20-25 years if properly cared for.
These animals have powerful hind legs, which help them jump high and take enormous leaps. It also makes them very fast swimmers. When they land after jumping, their Achilles tendon stretches like a rubber band and releases its energy to move forward. They can cover 26–30 ft in a single leap and reach average heights of 3 ft 11 in – 6 ft 3 in.
They have adaptations for living in arid environments. They can store water in their bodies and survive without water for several days. Their kidneys can hold urine for long periods. Their urine is more concentrated to prevent losing a lot of water from the body.
Red kangaroos also made specific adaptations to survive the scorching summer heat of Australia. They have a large concentration of blood vessels on the skin’s surface. So if they lick their body, the heat blows away from their warm blood.
They sweat while moving and pant when they stop.
Red kangaroos have a range of vision of about 300⁰ (324 ⁰with about 25⁰ overlap). This helps them in seeing faraway objects. As a result, they face no difficulty covering large distances in a single leap.
Male red kangaroos can reproduce by 20-24 months, while females reproduce by 15-20 months. The babies are born in an immature state after 33 days of pregnancy. They are about one inch tall and weigh 0.035 ounces. After birth, the baby red kangaroo attaches itself to its mother’s nipples for 70 days. The females can delay a baby’s birth until a previous joey has left the pouch.
Young males participate in ceremonial boxing, and the winner wins the right to mate with the females. Compared to other kangaroos, a fight between red kangaroos is more like wrestling. Standing on their hind legs, they try to push their opponents off balance by jabbing or locking their arms. If the fight intensifies, they kick each other with their hind legs. The strongest males control most of the breeding.
After roughly 190 days, the baby kangaroo is fully developed inside the mother’s womb. Then it sticks its head out for a few weeks but does not leave the pouch altogether. After 235 days, it finally leaves the pouch for the last time. Once it leaves the pouch, the joey will suckle until 12 months old. They can mate approximately two and a half years after birth.
Red kangaroos can breed anytime in a year, provided the seasonal conditions are favorable. The males and females do not get to choose their partners. The males had to fight for their mating opportunities with the females. A male can mate with several females in their lifetime.
The most common predator of red kangaroos is the dingo. Dingoes are wild dogs found in Australia. Other predators of red kangaroos are the Tasmanian devil and humans.
The Tasmanian devil was once a dangerous predator of red kangaroos, but these days they have become very few in numbers. Hence, they are no more a significant threat to red kangaroos.
Red kangaroos are considered a “Least Concern” or “LC” species by IUCN. Currently, they are not under any threat of becoming endangered.
Hunters often shoot them down. Farmers also kill them to save their crops.
Male red kangaroos are popularly known as ‘boomers’, and females are known as ‘blue flyers’.
Like other kangaroos, red kangaroos cannot walk backward because of their thick tail.
Similar to all Australian wildlife, red kangaroos are also protected by the legislation. Hunting and harvesting them requires a state permit.
The largest red kangaroo, named Roger, weighed 200 pounds and stood 6 ft 7 in tall. He was discovered by a man named Chris Barns, who kept him in a sanctuary founded by him. This muscular male red kangaroo passed away at the age of 12.