The first time you may have learned about kangaroos may have been when you read about Kanga and Roo in the Winnie the Pooh stories. Both of these characters are kangaroos. These unusual animals fascinate everyone outside of Australia and people in Australia hunt them to use as food and in the textiles industry.
There are more than 60 species of kangaroo, all of which are native only to Australia. They belong to the Macropodidae family, named this because of their very large hind feet. The two most common species are the Gray Kangaroo and the Red Kangaroo. Kangaroos are mammals and marsupials. This means that female kangaroos have live births, nurse their young, and carry the babies around in a pouch.
The babies are called joeys which are born a month after conception when they are 1-inch long. They spend between six and eight months in their mother's pouch. This is where she nurses them, her four teats (teats are nipples) are located inside her pouch. Even while a female red kangaroo is pregnant, she can still conceive another baby. It will not develop until after the first joey is mature enough to leave her pouch. Kangaroos can live for between six to eight years.
Kangaroos have very long and very strong hind legs but their front legs are very short. There are no thumbs on the front paws of a kangaroo. They can run at a top speed of 40 miles per hour and they can jump up to 30 feet. If they need help balancing, they use their large, muscular tail. They eat plants only, being herbivores and tend to be nocturnal.
There are kangaroos in all parts and climate zones of Australia. The Gray Kangaroo lives in the southern and eastern areas of the continent in forests and grasslands. They breed year round. The Red Kangaroo lives in central Australian grasslands and in the desert and they only breed in the late spring.
Kangaroo meat is a very low fat red meat that is rich in protein and iron so it is hunted and exported to be used in foods around the world. Kangaroo skins can be used as fur and also processed into leather. The Australian government protects all the kangaroos. Every year they conduct a kangaroo census where they try to count the number of animals in order to decide how many can be hunted.