Western Grey Kangaroo, Macropus fuliginosus
The western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus), also known as the red-faced kangaroo, sooty kangaroo, mallee kangaroo, or carno kangaroo, is a macropod that can be found in Southern Australia. Its range extends from the Murray–Darling Basin in New South Wales to western Victoria and to the south of Shark Bay, and also includes Queensland and coastal areas of Southern Australia. The western grey kangaroo holds two recognized subspecies. Macropus fuliginosus fuliginosus, which can be found on Kangaroo Island, is commonly known as the Kangaroo Island kangaroo. This species does not inhabit southeastern areas of Australia or tropical areas in north Australia. Its range overlaps that of the eastern grey kangaroo, and although the two species are able to interbreed, they do not do so in the wild.
The western grey kangaroo was well known by native Australians for many years, but when Europeans first learned about the species, there was confusion about its classification. It was first discovered on Kangaroo Island in 1802 by a European explorer named Matthew Flinders. Flinders killed a few individuals for their meat, but thought that they were eastern grey kangaroos, and described them as such. One year later, French explorers captured a few individuals and placed them a zoological garden. Although researchers from the Paris Museum of Natural History recognized that these were not eastern grey kangaroos and renamed them Macropus fuliginosus in 1817, their origin was listed as Tasmania.
For one hundred years, it was thought that the western grey kangaroo was native to Tasmania. In 1917 it was found that the Tasmanian kangaroos, known as forester kangaroos, were actually eastern grey kangaroos. By 1971, the individuals found on Kangaroo Island were considered one of three subspecies of western grey kangaroo, and in 1990, the current classifications were understood.
The western grey kangaroo is one of the largest kangaroos in its range, reaching an average body length between 2.7 and 3.6 feet, with a tail length of up to 3.2 feet and a weight between 61.7 and 119 pounds. Males can grow to be twice the size of females, displaying sexual dimorphism. Its thick fur can be light grey to brown in color, with the underbelly, throat, and chest having a lighter color. It gathers in groups of up to fifteen individuals. During the breeding season, males will “box” and kick each other in competition for females. After a pregnancy period of up to thirty-one days, one joey is born within its mother’s pouch, where it will remain for up to 150 days. The western grey kangaroo appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern.”
Image Caption: Western Grey Kangaroo taken at Donnelly Mills, Western Australia. Credit: SeanMack/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)