Zookeeper Brittany Wingfield guest-blogs on Zoohoo!
For the first time in the Dallas Zoo’s long history (almost 130 years!), we have welcomed western grey kangaroos. The brother and sister pair just started making appearances in their ZooNorth habitat. These two impressive macropods came to us from the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, earlier this summer.
We join about a dozen other AZA-accredited zoos to care for western grey kangaroos, which are a truly unique species. They’re smaller than the more well-known red kangaroos, but are just as intriguing.
Our new ’roos have had some time behind the scenes to settle into their new home and meet their keepers and exhibit mates — our five Bennett’s wallabies. Male Berrigan (a/k/a Berry) is a year and a half old and weighs around 55 pounds. Males can weigh up to 120 pounds, but typically don’t fill out until they’re 7 or 8. Three-year-old female Gidgee is slightly smaller than Barry, weighing 50 pounds. Females can get up to 60 pounds, so she still has some growing to do.
Western greys are widespread throughout the southwestern portion of Australia and eat shrubs and grasses. Their large feet allow them to hop long distances at sustained speeds of about 16 mph, but they can hop in short bursts up to 44 mph! Hopping is an extremely effective form of locomotion. The tendons in their legs work like springs to provide maximum ground coverage with minimal effort, which is really handy in the heat of the Outback.
Gidgee immediately showed her keepers what makes western greys stand out among their big-footed cohorts – they’re vocal! They communicate with each other and their young through a series of clicks. However, if Gidgee’s personal space is invaded, she won’t hesitate to let you know with a low rumbling growl.
Berrigan, on the other hand, tends to be more preoccupied with the finer things in life, like eating. He loves his vegetables and won’t leave the bowl until every piece of sweet potato and carrot are gone. Our new kangaroos’ favorite treat, though, is “browse.” Browse is a fun word zookeepers use to refer to any browse-able (non-toxic, edible) plant matter. This can be trees, bushes or shrubs. Our new guys love just about anything, but mulberry, photinia, and elm seem to be the front-runners.
Perhaps next time you see them at the Zoo, they’ll be grabbing a bite to eat, hopping around or just lounging in the sand box.