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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 20, 2002 - Issue 59


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How Kangaroos Got Their Pouch


This story comes from our Aboriginal friends in Australia



Two Kangaroos"Joey! Where are you?" called Mother Kangaroo, searching for her son. "Come here now". Mother Kangaroo looked around, under all the bushes, but couldn't see her Joey.

"That boy has too much energy" she mumbled to herself "He's always hopping off." Using her paw, she shaded her eyes from the bright sun and looked around for her Joey again.

"Here I am!" an excited voice yelled behind her.

"Aaah!" screamed Mother Kangaroo hopping six feet in the air and landing with a thud. "Joey, you frightened me!" she said.

"Sorry Mother," said Joey.

"That's all right," she answered, rubbing his head fondly. "But you shouldn't hop off by yourself. It can be dangerous."

"But Mother, there are so many exciting things to see. I get bored standing here eating grass."

"Grass is good for you" said Mother Kangaroo. "Now be a good Joey, and don't go hopping off again."

KangarooShe put her head down and munched the sweet grass. When she looked up, Joey had disappeared again. She gave a big sigh and started looking for him again.

Up ahead she saw the leaves on a bush shaking. "Ah! That's my Joey," she said. She hopped over quickly, and bumped into a fat old wombat.

"Ouch! Watch were you're going" yelled Wombat. "I'm very sorry" said Mother Kangaroo "I didn't mean to bump into you."

"You big animals never think about us with our short legs, closer to the ground," grumbled Wombat. "Now you're here, you can help me find some good grass to eat."

"I'd like to, but I'm looking for my Joey at the moment," said Mother Kangaroo.

"That's right, nearly knock me over, a half blind poor old Wombat, and now you won't even help me find food," complained Wombat.

"Of course I'll help you," said kind Mother Kangaroo. "Grab onto my tail and we'll look for good grass."

WombatAs Mother Kangaroo hopped along with Wombat holding her tail Joey came bounding by and hopped right over old wombat.

"What was that" yelled Wombat.

"That was my Joey" said Mother Kangaroo. "Come back Joey"

"Kids! No respect" grumbled Wombat.

Joey kept going.

Wombat stumbled into a hole "Stop, your going to fast. I need to rest" he complained.

While Wombat rested Mother Kangaroo kept looking around. She was worried about her Joey but wouldn't leave poor old Wombat. It was too dangerous for someone who couldn't see properly to be alone.

Wombat"Now I'm thirsty" complained Wombat "Take me to some water"

"All right" said Mother Kangaroo "I hope nothing has happened to my Joey" she thought to herself.

They headed towards the waterhole with Wombat holding onto Mother Kangaroo's tail and grumbling all the way.

When they reached the waterhole there was Joey asleep under a shady gumtree. Mother Kangaroo bounded over to him.

"That's right. Just leave me standing here all alone not able to see" yelled Wombat.

Just then Mother Kangaroo saw some men coming towards the waterhole carrying spears. They were hunting something for their dinner.

Two Kangaroos"Quickly we have to hide! Hunters are coming. Grab my tail" said Mother Kangaroo. They rushed towards the bushes with Wombat complaining as he hung onto the tail and bounced up and down.

Hiding in the bushes Joey dug his little paws into his mothers fur, holding on as tightly as he could.

"I'm scared" said frightened Joey.

"Shh, it will be all right dear" said his mother softly.

When the hunters had passed Mother Kangaroo looked around for grouchy old Wombat but he wasn't there. He had turned into Father of all Creatures. He explained to Mother Kangaroo he had disguised himself as a wombat and come down from his sky world to find the kindest animal in this land.

"And the kindest animal is you Mother Kangaroo. Even when you were worried about your Joey you were still kind to a grumpy complaining old wombat".

He took some bark from a tree and handed it to Mother Kangaroo. "Now I am going to give you a special present. Tie this bark around your waist"

Mother Kangaroo tied the bark around her waist and it turned into the pouch that all kangaroos have today.

"Now you somewhere to keep Joey from wandering off and when he gets frightened he has some where to hide.

Joey climbed into his mothers pouch "This is really cool. Can I have friends over to visit?" asked Joey.

Mother Kangaroo thanked the Father of all Creatures "This is a very special present but I feel sad for all the other animals who don't have a pouch for their children".

Kangaroo"You are definitely the kindest animal" said Father of all Creatures

Because of Mother Kangaroo's kindness all marsupials have a pouch to carry their babies and young children.

Print and Color Your Own Kangaroo Picture

Learn more about our Aborignal friends from Australia
Would you like to experience the Dreaming though artist's eyes? Are you interested in Indigenous current affairs? Or maybe you would like to travel the rich land that is home to one of the oldest living cultures? Wherever your interest lies, this section presents you the opportunity to expand your knowledge and broaden your horizons.

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Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus)

Red Kangaroo in motionA Kangaroo is a marsupial mammal. Marsupials are the group of mammals commonly thought of as pouched mammals. It is a macropod which means "big foot".

There are over 40 different types (species) of Kangaroo. The smaller ones are usually called Wallabies

Red kangaroos are one of the largest species of marsupial. The Red Kangaroo is about 5 feet long and has a tail that is about 42 inches long. They have long narrow hind feet and a long, heavy tail. This tail is not prehensile. Instead, it is used as a balancing and stabilizing device. At high speeds, they primarily use hopping as a means of locomotion. At lower speeds they tend to balance on their forearms and tail and swing their hind legs forward. Members of this family cannot walk backwards. However, they are able to jump 29 feet in distance and 6 feet in height. For short periods they can attain a speed of 35 mph. They can maintain a speed of 12 mph for hours. The male Red Kangaroo is usually a reddish color and the female is bluish-gray. However this is not always the case. Kangaroos have long, strong hind legs and short, weaker forelimbs.

Red Kangaroo standingRed kangaroos survive on grass and other vegetation. They are also able to go for long periods without water as long as they have access to green plants. They are able to draw enough moisture out of their food to survive.

Red kangaroos are found throughout Australia. Primarily they are found in the dry grassy plains and stay away from the wetter grasslands.

The primary predators of the Red Kangaroo are the dingo and man. Sheep farmers will often shoot kangaroos on sight because they graze on the same land their sheep do. The kangaroo fights by attacking its opponent with its front paws (which have sharp claws) or by kicking them with its powerful hind legs. At one time, the Tasmanian Devil was a predator of the kangaroo. However, while not yet extinct, the Tasmanian Devil is so scarce that it is no longer a concern.

Red Kangaroo and JoeyRed kangaroos travel in groups called mobs. They tend to be semi-nomadic and are led by an older male. When threatened, kangaroos will usually flee although they will fight when necessary. Red kangaroos generally rest during the midday and eat at night.

Young kangaroos are born partially developed after 30-40 days. They are born hairless and blind and, immediately after birth, they crawl up the outside of the mother kangaroo to the pouch. Once there they start eating. While in the pouch, for the next 225 days or so, they eat, sleep, and develop the rest of the way. It sometimes jumps into its mother's pouch head first when frightened. Once they reach full development they can leave the pouch. A young kangaroo that can leave the pouch is called a joey.

Did you know?

A male kangaroo is called a boomer
A female is called a flyer
A baby is called a Joey

How The Kangaroo Got It's Name:
When European explorers first saw these strange hopping animals they asked a native Australian (aborigine) what they were called.

He replied "kangaroo" meaning "I don't understand" your question.

The explorers thought this was the animal's name. And that's how the kangaroo got its name.

Coloring Picture Credit: Copyright ANIMAL VETERINARY CENTER, INC

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