Australia and New Guinea


Found in every habitat in Australia, and in wet forests in New Guinea

A well-known mammal

The word kangaroo often brings to mind a picture of a big, bounding critter with long ears and a baby, or joey, peeking out of its mother's pouch. Maybe you envision Kanga and Roo from A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh books, or H. A. Rey's Katy No-Pocket from the story of the same name? Either way, kangaroos are perhaps Australia's best-known animal and are found in stories, movies, and even as sports team mascots the world over!


The kangaroo's family name, Macropodidae, means "big feet," a great description for kangaroos and their relatives. Kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, quokkas, pademelons, potoroos, rat-kangaroos, honey possums, and tree kangaroos are all macropods. Confused about the difference between kangaroos, wallaroos, and wallabies? That's understandable! There are more than 50 species of these marsupials, and they vary in size from critters you could hold in your hands to the giant red kangaroo that stands as tall as an adult person.

A female kangaroo is called a doe, flyer, jill, or roo; a male is called a buck, boomer, jack, or old man.
A male kangaroo grows steadily bigger and stronger throughout his life.
Western gray kangaroo males have been nicknamed "stinkers" because they smell like curry.
Honey possum newborns are the smallest of all mammal babies at less than a quarter-inch (5 millimeters) long.
Kangaroos cannot walk backward.
A mother kangaroo can produce milk of two different types to feed two different babies at the same time: one that has emerged from the pouch but is still nursing and a newborn.
Tree kangaroos are called the ghosts of the forest because they are so hard to find and move so quickly.
Tree kangaroos are the only kangaroos that can move their back legs independently of one another and move backward, which is how they climb down a tree.
The prehistoric giant short-faced kangaroo was the largest hopping animal that ever existed, weighing over 440 pounds (220 kilograms).
The red kangaroo is the fastest jumper in mammal land, bouncing up to almost 35 miles (56 kilometers) per hour.

From our earliest years, the San Diego Zoo has had red and gray kangaroos and a variety of wallaby species. In 1960, we received our first tree kangaroos as a gift from the Taronga Zoo in Australia.

Today, the San Diego Zoo features Matschie’s and Buergers’ tree kangaroos that show off their agility leaping from branch to branch and shimming up and down tree trunks, and dainty parma wallabies that are worth a second look in our new Australian Outback habitat. Read a story of a miracle parma wallaby joey. http://blogs.sandiegozoo.org/2012/04/11/visit-the-mob/

Both the Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park have macropods serving as animal ambassadors, too. At the Safari Park, Ruby the red kangaroo, Max the New South Wales wallaroo, and Jannali, a Bennett’s wallaby, may be seen in animal presentations and on behind-the-scenes tours, and they are trained to make visits to television stations; Ruby has even assisted with wedding proposals!

At the Zoo, red kangaroos Jirra and Tangari live in an exhibit in Urban Jungle and make appearances at special functions. Jirra can often be seen as part of the Zoo’s Backstage Pass program.

Read a story of a miracle parma wallaby joey.

In 1965, workers on Kawau Island (near Auckland, New Zealand) were attempting to reduce a population of tammar wallabies Macropus eugenii that had been introduced to the island years earlier and were now overrunning the place. They were astonished to discover that some of the animals were not tammar wallabies at all but a miraculously surviving population of parma wallabies Macropus parma, a species thought extinct since the 1890s! The tammar wallaby reduction effort was halted while the parma wallabies were caught and sent to managed-care facilities in Australia and around the world in the hope that they would reproduce and could eventually be reintroduced to their native habitat.

The renewed interest in the parma wallaby produced another surprise: a few years later, a small population of them was discovered in the forests of New South Wales in Australia!

You can help us bring species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.