Kangaroos are surprisingly excellent ocean swimmers

Published October 12, 2015 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©2015 Susan Scott

A baby kangaroo, or joey, fits comfortably in writer Susan Scott’s hand. ©2015 Susan Scott

A baby kangaroo, or joey, fits comfortably in writer Susan Scott’s hand. ©2015 Susan Scott

BUNDABERG, Australia >> Today is my first day back on my sailboat, Honu, moored here in the Bundaberg Port Marina. Bundaberg is a town in Queensland, the state famous for its offshore neighbor, the Great Barrier Reef.

I say offshore because the closest atoll from this marina to Great Barrier Reef National Park is 50 miles, and in some places the islands and reefs are 100 miles out. If the weather permits and my boat systems work, I plan to sail to the closest atoll, Lady Musgrave. But even if I stay in the marina to wait out strong winds or make repairs, I’ll be having a good time with one of my favorite marine animals: kangaroos.

OK, kangaroos aren’t marine animals. But during past visits to Australia, I’ve had outstanding experiences with these creatures on islands, in beach parks and at shore-side wildlife facilities. Several years ago I sailed solo to Brampton Island, one of the 300 or so islands in the Great Barrier Reef. After anchoring, I rowed my dinghy ashore and headed off on a hike. The island was having a butterfly bloom at the time, and as I stood spellbound in a blizzard of blue wings, the ground began to shake. Earthquake! I thought, heart pounding. Tsunami!

My panic didn’t last long, though, because a moment later, hopping down the trail like a bunch of mutant bunnies, was a family of eastern gray kangaroos.

Hikingwithroos_small

Kangaroos can’t walk backward, so when the dominant male (called a boomer), saw me, he made a wide U-turn. His family followed, and off they bounced, creating another trail tremor.

The eastern gray kangaroo is a heavyweight, not as tall as the red species, but weighting about the same, up to 200 pounds for males, 100 for females.

People didn’t bring these kangaroos to the island. Surprisingly, kangaroos are excellent swimmers and do just fine in the ocean, even maneuvering around stand-up paddlers: bit.ly/1PdBV2T.

Another time here, I visited a beach-side trailer park known for kind residents rescuing orphaned roos when their mothers are hit by cars. To escape early-evening mosquitoes, the kangaroos there hop to the beach and stand in the water. Afterward the animals spring back to their human friends for dinner, served in dog dishes at the door of each person’s home.

P1120772_small

Last year I visited a private wildlife facility and arrived to find a worker bottle-feeding a baby kangaroo. That nice woman had no idea what a joyous moment she gave me when she handed the joey to me and let me feed it.

Now I’m back in Australia looking for more roo delights. I don’t have to look far. Kangaroos might not be marine animals, but (thank you!) they routinely visit this marina.

DSCN0118_small


Marine biologist Susan Scott writes the newspaper column, “Ocean
Watch”, for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, www.staradvertiser.com

©2015 Susan Scott