These past few summers have brought the arid Australian outback its hottest summers on record. Against the dramatic background of this historic drought, life must go on for the red kangaroo.
Tonight, we get a rare look into the intimate world of red kangaroos from their start in mama’s pouch to their fight for continued survival in the outback. Join NatGeoWILD for The Kangaroo King as we follow one red “roo” on his journey to adulthood among eagles, dingoes, snakes, emus, and more.
Red kangaroos are constantly on the move, searching for the grassy green “pick” where they can graze, ensuring survival. Consistent with their active lifestyle, they are natural-born athletes, burning less energy to breathe while hopping than while at rest.
The desert environment of Australia’s interior is dependent on occasional heavy rainstorms, which fill long-dried riverbeds and watering holes and allow grass and plants to rise from dormancy, reviving a community of animals that has long suffered from drought. However, this profusion of life will disappear as quickly as it arose, leaving the outback’s animals to once again wander in search of water.
Born after only 33 days in his mother’s womb and only the size of a peanut, we follow one red kangaroo from his first journey up into mom’s pouch to his journey as a five-year-old buck to prove himself and find a mate.
Adult male kangaroos engage in vicious fights for dominance in order to win female mates, who will settle for no less than an alpha male. Their incredibly strong legs and long arms mean that they are expert kickboxers and wrestlers, and being the strongest is an absolute necessity in order to guarantee the opportunity to reproduce.
A drought this strong, however, will test the survival strategies of the entire red kangaroo species. Red ‘roos have lots of tricks for surviving extreme heat: their super-powered kidneys filter and concentrate waste so that they lose very little water when urinating, and they pant rather than sweat in order to keep cool at rest. The fur on kangaroos’ backs reflect thirty percent of incoming heat, and they resort to licking their entire bodies in order to keep cool. Female kangaroos can even switch off their milk supply when water is unavailable, which can be fatal for unweaned joeys. Large males, who need the most food and water, are often the next to succumb to extreme drought. As heat and droughts intensify and become more common in Australia, even these uniquely desert-adapted animals will struggle to survive.
The Australian outback is a forbidding but fascinating landscape, hiding millions of stories in plain sight. Join Destination Wild this Sunday August 16th at 10/9c for an adventure with The Kangaroo King, only on Nat Geo WILD!