The remarkable lifecycle of the kangaroo
A national symbol of the land down under, kangaroos not only look incredible bounding their way over the sun-scorched Australian outback, but they also have one of the most interesting and extraordinary lifecycles in the entire animal kingdom.
Mating happens all year round, and mother kangaroos are pregnant for around one month. When the baby (joey) kangaroo is born it is the size of a jellybean – the new-born is blind, hairless and so small that its mother can’t even touch it yet.
She licks a pathway through her fur and the joey uses this (guided by its sense of smell), along with its sharp claws, to make its way up her body.
It reaches the safety of the pouch – virtually unaided – where it will continue its development. Within the pouch are the mother’s teats. These provide the young ‘roo with a rich milk full of essential nutrients. The joey spends about eight more months growing in its mother’s pouch before taking its first tentative hops outside.
Joeys will suckle on their mother’s milk until they are around 12–18 months old when they will begin to adopt the usual kangaroo diet of grasses, leaves and ferns.
The pouch is still very much a safe haven from the outside world, and joeys will still be carried in this comfortable papoose until they are kicked out to make room for younger brothers and sisters.
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