How does the mother kangaroo keep her pouch clean?

How does the mother kangaroo keep her pouch clean?

The Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), the Red Kangaroo (Osphranter rufus), and other kangaroos and wallabies, are Australian marsupial mammals. 

Like all marsupial mammals, the female kangaroo has a pouch where her baby kangaroo, called a joey, grows and is kept safe from harm. 

The marsupial pouch has mammary glands to feed watery milk to her joey. At birth, the joey can be as small as a grain of rice, or as big as a bee. The joey stays in the mother’s pouch for 120-450 days (4-15 months) before it become independent. 

Because the joey lives in the pouch for a long time, people think that the pouch must get very dirty with the joey’s defecation and urination (poop and pee), as well as with mud from the joey’s feet when it is old enough to temporarily leave the pouch (when it is about the size of a small cat). 

While in the pouch, the joey does not defecate or urinate until it feels its mother’s tongue. Then it does a very, very small amount of poop and pee, which the mother thoroughly cleans. It’s like giving the joey a tongue bath.  

The inside of the marsupial pouch is hairless, which is easier to clean than a hairy pouch. The female kangaroo has a long tongue. She regular licks her pouch to clean it, especially when her joey is temporarily outside the pouch. 

Question from: Morgan W., 11 years old, New Jersey, America

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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