Unlike the young of most other mammals, a newborn kangaroo is highly underdeveloped and embryo-like at birth. After a gestation of up to 34 days, the jellybean-sized baby kangaroo makes the journey from birth canal to pouch by clambering up through its mother’s fur. Once safely in the pouch, the joey suckles solidly for just over two months.
Female red kangaroo with a joey in her pouch. © John Carnemolla/Getty
At around six months, when the baby kangaroo is sufficiently well developed, it will leave the pouch for short periods, returning when it needs to feed. Red kangaroos leave the pouch for good at around eight months and continue to suckle for another three to four months; grey kangaroos leave at about 11 months, continuing to suckle until they are as old as 18 months.
Kangaroo joey in its mother’s pouch. © Tim Starkey/Getty
Interestingly, female kangaroos are able to suckle two joeys simultaneously – one in the pouch and one outside, offering two different types of milk, as well as having an egg ready for implantation.
Do male kangaroos have pouches?
Only female kangaroos have pouches because they do the child rearing – male kangaroos have no need for a pouch as they can’t produce milk.
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