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Animal Data > Grey Kangaroo

(Macropus fuliginosus)

Status Distribution Sexually Mature
Near Threatened South-western Australia 20-36 months
Number of Young Gestation Life Span
1 30 days 20 years

Grey Kangaroo
(Click for larger image)

Western grey kangaroos live in scrubland, preferring heavy cover. They tend to form groups of 2-10 individuals called 'mobs'. Whilst grazing, kangaroos move by balancing on their tails and forelimbs, and swinging the back legs forward. If moving quickly, only the back legs are used and kangaroos may cover 10 metres in a single leap. The 'mobs' tend to rest under cover during the day and come out to forage at night.

Grey kangaroos are mainly grazers, but will also browse. They have special bacteria in their stomachs which help to break down cellulose - the tough material that plant cell walls are made out of. This means that they can feed on plants that other herbivores (plant eaters) find hard to digest, and are therefore able to colonise areas unfavourable to these other large herbivores.

Grey kangaroos will breed throughout the year in favourable conditions, but generally the breeding season lasts from September to March (summer in Australia). This follows heavy rainfall when there is a lot of vegetation growth.

Birth takes place when the young are scarcely more than an embryo. They weigh 1g, are naked and have undeveloped ears, eyes and back legs. One (occasionally two) young is born and crawls, unaided from the womb to the mother's pouch. This takes 3-5 minutes. Inside the pouch, the baby latches on to one of the four teats which then swells inside the baby's mouth to stop it falling off. The young leave their mother's pouch at 320 days but may suckle for a further 6 months and stay with their mother until they reach maturity.

Another unusual aspect of the kangaroo's reproduction is 'delayed implantation' - meaning that the mother can mate again as soon as the baby moves to the pouch, but the new egg will not develop until the baby stops suckling. This means that if the first baby dies while suckling, the mother can quickly have a second baby, increasing her chances of successfully rearing in that breeding season. Females may have one embryo, one baby in the pouch and another slightly older hopping alongside at any one time.

Kangaroos have been killed for their skins. They are regarded as pests by farmers, and are also killed for this reason.

Main Features

Short forelimbs and long, powerful hindlimbs with long feet. Soft brown fur which may be thick and woolly in colder regions. Females have a forward opening pouch and may be half the size of the males.

In Captivity

Some kangaroos are difficult to look after in captivity and do not always do well in the British climate. The population of grey kangaroos at Marwell provides us with information that can be used when dealing with more sensitive species. They are fed on fruit, vegetables, special pellets, hay and browse.

©2009 Marwell Wildlife