Baby Kangaroo Story
The red gum tree shades the Australian outback on warm afternoons. Kangaroos know this well, so they rest under the trees during the hot summer days. They lie on their sides, with their long legs stretched out behind them.
One kangaroo does not want to take a nap. His name is Joey, and he wants to play.
A kangaroo is a marsupial, which means the mother kangaroo carries her baby in a warm pouch on her belly.
A kangaroo is called a joey when it is a baby. Joey is only a few months old. Like all kangaroos, he has strong back legs, large feet, and a long tail. When Joey moves, it’s easy to see why his legs and body are so big and strong.
He hops! Joey bounces along on his back legs, using his tail for balance. A kangaroo can jump seven feet into the air with one bounce!
Some kangaroos can grow as tall as six feet. And from nose to tail tip, some kangaroos measure ten feet long!
Joey finds two other young kangaroos who are awake, too. They start to wrestle each other, poking tummies and tugging on ears and tails. Little Joey leads the others in a hopping race. A clucking noise makes him stop suddenly. It is his mother calling him. She uses the sound to tell Joey that he has wandered too far from her. Joey quickly returns to his mother.
A group of kangaroos traveling together is called a mob. It consists of one adult male, two or three females, and their young.
Joey is very tired after all of his fun and games. He climbs headfirst into a small pouch located in his mother’s tummy. The pouch is the perfect size for her baby. Only Joey’s legs are sticking out. Then he turns himself around in the pouch so he can see.
A kangaroo mother’s pouch makes a great built-in bed for her babies. Joey knows this pouch very well, because he spends a lot of time here. A joey usually lives in its mother’s pouch until it’s too big to fit inside — about one year.
An adult kangaroo stamps its foot on the ground. That sound means danger! Joey’s mother lifts her head and sniffs the air. Suddenly, a dingo dog comes running from the trees. The kangaroos must escape! Quickly, they jump away, flying through the air. Joey ducks down into his mother’s pouch. His mother has never moved so fast! Adult kangaroos traveling quickly can cover distances up to 27 feet with each bounce, and they can reach speeds of 40 miles per hour.
Mother Kangaroo jumps fast and far. The pack of dingo dogs can’t keep up. Soon the dingoes drop back. The kangaroos are safe, but they keep on moving. They are heading toward a patch of rain clouds. The kangaroos know that tasty green grass grows wherever rain has fallen. The group reaches its new home before dark.
A kangaroo’s most important senses are smell and hearing. They have long ear flaps which they can turn backward and forward to hear sounds from all directions.
The kangaroos settle into their new home. Night is coming, and it is getting cooler. Joey and the other kangaroos will spend the evening feeding.
Joey’s mother nibbles some grass. She uses her short front arms and big back feet to hop-step forward. Joey is still in her pouch. He learns to eat by watching his mother. When she stretches down to eat some grass or nibble on leaves, he stretches down to eat some grass, too.
At six months, a joey begins to eat grass and leaves, but it still drinks its mother’s milk.
Joey’s little tummy is now full. Joey leaves his mother’s pouch. It is grooming time. He uses a paw to comb the fur on his legs, arms, tummy, chest, back, and floppy ears. He licks his arms and rubs them over his face.
Grooming keeps Joey clean, and it also keeps the biting bugs away. When Joey is all finished grooming, he looks for a playmate. Kangaroos can keep cool by licking their forearms. When this skin is moistened, the blood underneath is cooled. This blood then travels to the rest of the body and cools it, too.
Joey hops to a pool filled with fresh rainwater. The pool is new to him. The land where he lives is normally very dry. Joey looks into the water. He sees another kangaroo looking back at him! Who is this strange kangaroo?
Joey leans closer to look in the water at the stranger’s face. Oops! Joey dips his nose in the water and gets all wet. Kangaroos can cool themselves by taking a dip in the water, too. Joey looks around and sees some older kangaroos splashing around in the cool water.
The water feels wonderful. Joey hops right into the puddle. Soon other young kangaroos join him there. They discover what the older kangaroos already know — water is fun!