FROM ZOO TO YOU Visiting the mob of kangaroos

By Julianne Turner

When you think of common wildlife around the U.S., there are a few species that likely come to mind. Things like squirrels, raccoons, doves, or even deer are often seen in many states. But what is common for us might be considered an exotic animal to others around the world. There are tourists who get very excited about seeing a squirrel because they have never seen anything like it before!  This same idea happens in many different countries with all sorts of wildlife.

One type of animal that is incredibly common for locals in Australia is the kangaroo. Many people around the world find this species fascinating with their ability to hop such large distances and carry their young in a pouch, but in Australia they are sometimes considered a pest. Much like deer in the U.S., kangaroos have a tendency to eat plants out of people’s gardens and run out into busy roads. They are even at risk of overpopulating areas, as there are twice as many kangaroos as there are people on the continent!

Part of the reason they are able to have such a large population is because they are very well adapted to their environment. Many of those adaptations involve keeping cool, as much of Australia is very hot. While they have fur covering their body, it actually reflects heat from the sun. On very hot days, they will lick their arms until the fur is dripping wet. As the saliva evaporates they are cooled down, much like the way human sweat works.

Another behavior that helps keep them cool enough to survive the heat is their sleep cycle. Kangaroos are crepuscular, which means they are most active in the mornings and evenings when the temperatures are cooler. They sleep in the middle of the day when it is hottest, as well as in the night when it is dark. You might think of it as having two “bedtimes” each day.

Red kangaroos are the largest species of kangaroo, with males standing up to six feet tall. This is the type of kangaroo you can find at the Lee Richardson Zoo!  A kangaroo is even celebrating their birthday this week. Holly will be ten years old on Friday!

You can visit the mob of kangaroos during your next visit by heading to the west side of the zoo. You may even be able to spot some of those special cooling behaviors while you are there. And be sure to wish Holly a very happy birthday!

Julianne Turner is the guest engagement coordinator at Lee Richardson Zoo.