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Western Gray Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) Fact Sheet: Managed Care

Western Gray Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus)

History of Managed Care

Kangaroos in zoos, general

  • 1789: Live kangaroos arrived in Britain and France (Simons 2013)
  • 1820s: Kangaroos exhibited in the U.S. (Simons 2013)
  • By the 1850s (Simons 2013)
    • Kangaroo exhibited in zoological gardens and traveling menageries in the British Isles; also kept in private collections
    • British now well-acquainted with kangaroos; allusions incorporated into culture, including Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield
  • 1892: ‘Boxing kangaroo’ exhibited at the Royal Aquarium, London (Simons 2013)
    • Like dog fights, “boxing kangaroo” matches still occur today and are the subject of much outrage from animal welfare advocates
  • Escaped kangaroos and wallabies have formed small, feral colonies; reported in Britain, France, Hawaii, etc. (Simons 2013)

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

  • 1923: Early on, the San Diego Zoo brought kangaroos into its collection (Stephenson 2015a)
  • 1925: 40 kangaroos arrived at the San Diego Zoo, as part of a large shipment of animals from Australia (San Diego Zoo Global History Timeline; Stephenson 2015a)
  • 1994: Kangaroo Encounter, an interactive exhibit, opened at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (Stephenson 2015b)
  • 2004: Red kangaroos debuted at the Conrad Prebys Australian Outback exhibit
  • 2018: Western gray kangaroos featured in the Safari Park’s Walkabout Australia exhibit

Husbandry

General

  • Some gray kangaroos form close social bonds in managed care (Staker 2006)

Diet in managed care

  • Grasses, leaves, herbs, supplemented with small amounts of produce and grains (Staker 2006)
  • Mineral licks; magnesium important for kangaroo nutrition (Staker 2006)

Shelters and enclosures

  • Increasingly, kangaroos in zoos are housed in free-ranging (minimal barrier) exhibits to allow visitors to observe and interact with them more closely (Sherwen et al. 2015)
    • Enclosure design and availability of retreat space are important
    • One study, Sherwen et al. (2015), found that zoo visitors in these minimal barrier-type exhibits did not negatively impact the welfare of Kangaroo Island gray kangaroos
      • Measured as levels of avoidance behaviors and aggression when exposed to relatively small numbers of visitors

Breeding in managed care

  • Caring for young, orphaned joeys (Staker 2006)
    • Suckling is essential to joey development: prevents stress, stimulates salivary glands, and aids in digestion
    • Low-lactose formula is fed around the clock
    • Joeys kept warm with electric blankets, heating pads, and other heat sources
    • Joeys must remain well hydrated; their skin must not become too dry
    • Substitute pouch helps the joey conserve energy and feel safe
  • As a highly social species, young joeys should be raised with other gray kangaroos or macropods (Staker 2006)
    • Being part of a group promotes physical and social development, confidence, and social bonding
    • Very dependent on caretakers if raised singly
  • Dominant male very protective of his group of females (Staker 2006)
    • Females choose their mates—it is not always the dominant male

Enrichment and training (Staker 2006)

  • Exercise and sunshine necessary for healthy development of joeys, especially for development of bones, muscles, and the tendons used in hopping
    • Joeys will not leave the pouch unless coaxed; must be encouraged out of the pouch and be active for proper development
  • Social activity (from living in a group of kangaroos)
  • Tactile enrichment items, such as balls or stuffed animals
  • Objects for sparring or kicking
    • Should be introduced when the joey is relatively young so they don’t see it as a threat
  • Access to water sources
  • Enjoy being scratched by keepers on their chest and under their chin

Western Gray Kangaroo

Western gray kangaroo grasping a tree branch at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Increasingly, kangaroos in zoos are housed in large enclosures that allow visitors to observe and interact with them more closely.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

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