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You could have a chat with a Kangaroo someday5 min read

December 21, 2020 4 min read

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You could have a chat with a Kangaroo someday5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Dr Alexandra Green and Dr Alan McElligott at the Australian Reptile Park.
Dr.Green and Dr. McElligott with one of the Kangaroos from their study. Image: The University of Sydney.

Dr. Alan McElligott and Dr. Alexandra Green have spent their time doing something pretty strange. They have been putting food in boxes, making it impossible to reach, and then offering it to kangaroos.

No, they aren’t stooges for Dr. Evil. Dr. Green and Dr. Mcelligott are, in fact, scientists who are studying the behaviour of kangaroos. They are busy at work with the serious business of hanging out with kangaroos. 

sketched out | Kangaroo illustration, Cartoon clip art, Abstract sketches
A mother kangaroo carrying her baby in her pouch. Image: Sketched Out via Pinterest

Owliver’s Obscure Observation: Kangaroos belong to a class of animals known as marsupials. Several Marsupials, like kangaroos, carry their babies around in a pouch.

What could they possibly learn from this?

Well, they were checking to see how these kangaroos would respond to this daunting task. Would the kangaroos give up? Or, would they beat the box to a pulp to reach the food? Would the boxes be flung in frustration?

Watch this video to see how one of the kangaroos reacted:

The kangaroos did something absolutely startling! They gazed at their human companions and asked for help. In fact, Dr. Green said that they even took it a step further.

“Some of them actually approached [Dr. McElligott] and started scratching at him and sniffing at him and then looking back at the box so they were really trying to communicate with him.”

Dr. Green via the Guardian
Kangaroos can ask humans for help, study shows - CNN
The Kangaroo struggles with the box and then gazes at Dr. McElligott as if to ask for help. Image:CNN

Why is this so startling?

cat and dog GIF

Don’t dogs do this all the time. If you don’t feed them, they’ll whine, bark, and try to hook you with their paw until you do. Cats communicate with us as well. What’s so special about this?

Image: GIPHY>>

This is the first time that we have evidence of wild or non-domesticated animals communicating with humans! Until now, it was believed that the only animals that interacted with us were those that spent hundreds of years living among humans. We assumed that since domesticated animals evolved with us, they were the only ones who learned to interact with us. On the other hand, since we haven’t spent hundreds of years talking to wild animals, it was believed that they wouldn’t and couldn’t communicate with us.

But these kangaroos just proved that this theory is not all true! Even though the experiments’ kangaroos grew up in the zoo, kangaroos never evolved with humans. Thus, the scientists concluded that these kangaroos learned this behavior. In fact, hey learned how and when to communicate with humans far quicker than expected. Kangaroos are much smarter than we thought!

Owliver’s Obscure Observation: A similar experiment was tried on another wild animal species, wolves. However, they kept knocking the box with their teeth but never asked for any help.

Why learn about Kangaroos’ behaviour?

Australia is brimming with the cutest Kangaroos. However, since they often hunt endangered animals and destroy crops, they are considered pests by many. In fact, there are groups of people that dedicate their time to hunting these marsupials. So, Dr. Green and Dr. McElligottt feel that if people knew how intelligent and communicative these animals are, they would feel connected to them and stop thinking of them as pests.

Should I take an unopenable box of food to a Kangaroo?

No, even though the title suggests that you could chat with a Kangaroo, they are rather violent. In fact, Dr. McElligott has said he wouldn’t recommend it either. Perhaps, in a few years, once humans are smart enough to communicate with Kangaroos, you could give it another go.

<<Image: BBC America via GIPHY

No, even though the title suggests that you could chat with a Kangaroo, they are rather violent. In fact, Dr. McElligott has said he wouldn’t recommend it either. Perhaps, in a few years, once humans are smart enough to communicate with Kangaroos, you could give it another go.

Click here to listen to Dr. Green talk about her experiences around the study.

Are you as smart as a Kangaroo? Try to re-organise this sliding puzzle. If it’s unsolvable for you, what will you do?

With Excerpts From: The Guardian, The New York Times, The University of Sydney, abc.net

Header Image: National Geographic via Pinterest

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