Travelling Australia
Red Kangaroo  -  Macropus rufus
Red Kangaroo
Red Kangaroos on the Barkly Tableland observing intruders; the females in the mob have moved into safety in the scrub in the background.
The red kangaroo is characterised by a naked muzzle with black and white mark on the sides of the muzzle and a broad white stripe running from the corner of the mouth to the base of the ear. In the eastern part of the range, males are usually pale red to brick red and females are bluish grey; in other parts of the range both sexes are reddish brown. The belly, chest and limbs are whitish. Fur is rather short and velvety to the touch.

This is the largest of the kangaroos. A male can grow to 1.8 metres tall (sitting on its haunches), and weigh 90 kilograms. Females are smaller, growing to 1.25 metres (sitting on its haunches) and weigh 35 kilograms. The hind feet are long and powerful enabling a red kangaroo to reach speeds of 65 kilometres per hour for short distances; their most comfortable hopping speed is 20-25 kilometres per hour. At higher speeds, up to about 40 kilometres per hour, the hopping rate remains constant while the hop length increases; for higher speed the hop rate and hop length both increase.

The red kangaroo prefers sparsely wooded or open plains with plenty of shade; they are found in mallee, desert, grassland and mulga country. Red kangaroos have adapted well to hot and dry conditions; anywhere where the rainfall is less than 500 millimetres a year seem to provide a suitable habitat so they are abundant over most of central Australia. Red and Western Grey Kangaroos both live in drier regions but the Red is better adapted to extreme drought periods.

Red kangaroos normally move in groups (known as 'mobs') ranging from a few dozen to several hundred individuals. A mob usually contains a dominant male, a number of breeding females, several subordinate males and juveniles of both sexes. Large males are sometimes solitary. They rest during the day moving out to graze late in the afternoon and in the early morning. Red kangaroos feed on grass and broad-leaved ground plants, sometimes on shrubs. They don't need water as long as green grass is available.

Red kangaroos are relatively sedentary with most animals moving less than 10 kilometres when conditions are suitable. They have a diet similar to domestic stock and are common on grazing land; under good conditions this is not a problem but can cause difficulty under drought conditions when a pastoralist may move stock from an area to conserve feed but the kangaroos remain and defeat conservation measures. If food become critically scarce in a drought, red kangaroos will leave an area moving more than 200 kilometres in search of food.

Males are sexually mature at 24 months old, females at 15-20 months. Red kangaroos are not seasonal breeders because rainfall in their usual habitats is unreliable. Breeding takes place all year round depending on rainfall and females come into breeding condition as soon as green feed develops after rain. The peanut-size naked young is born 33 days after mating; it climbs to the pouch, attaches itself to a teat, and remains continuously attached for around 120 to 130 days. Mating takes place again within two days and but this embryo remains in the uterus while the joey in the pouch grows. Around 185 days the joey begins temporarily leaving the pouch and leaves the pouch permanently at around 235 days old but will continue to suckle until a year old.
Red Kangaroo - page 2
When the joey leaves the pouch permanently, the embryo in suspended development in the uterus recommences development and is born after 30 days making its way to the pouch and attaching to a different teat to that used by the older joey; different milk is provided to each teat to suit each joey's age. The suspended embryo will resume development if the lactating joey in the pouch is lost for any reason, such as poor environmental conditions, so red kangaroos can recover their numbers quickly after drought.
Red Kangaroo
Red Kangaroo drinking at a dam in Mungo National Park.
   Department of the Environment and Water Resources at
   Australian Wildlife at
   Australia Zoo at
   Mungo National Park by Allan Fox, published NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and The Beaten Track Press, 3ed, 2002 reprint.