HomeOutdoorsNewsInside a kangaroo’s pouch: something you can’t unsee

Inside a kangaroo’s pouch: something you can’t unsee

by Caitlin Berard
Joey inside kangaroo pouch
(Photo by Andrew Haysom via Getty Images)

From the outside, kangaroo pouches are among the most adorable sights wildlife has to offer. A fuzzy built-in baby carrier? What could be cuter? Looking inside the protective pouch, however, provides a different perspective entirely.

Sure, it’s still fascinating, but “cute” no longer comes to mind when you learn it’s less a soft baby sling and more a second womb. Devoid of the wooly fur covering a kangaroo’s body, looking inside a pouch feels a bit like you’re peeking at an internal organ.

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Viewers of Animal EDventure Park & Safari‘s video have called the close-up look at a kangaroo pouch everything from “upsetting” to “traumatizing.” And, yes, for those who always assumed they were fluffy on the inside, it’s a little shocking. But kangaroos wouldn’t have evolved to have baby carriers on their bodies if they weren’t useful!

You see, kangaroo gestation is incredibly short. Like, born just a month after conception short. At 33 days, a kangaroo’s gestation period isn’t that much longer than a gerbil’s, a pocket-sized rodent that lives only around 3 years on average.

Kangaroos, on the other hand, are massive marsupials, the largest of which stand 8 feet tall and weigh 200 pounds. Their babies, however, are born the size of a jellybean at the largest. Some come out of the womb as small as a grain of rice!

At that size, a joey isn’t just tiny, it’s completely helpless. Kangaroos are born blind, deaf, and completely hairless, but with just enough strength to hoist themselves into their mother’s pouch.

What happens inside a kangaroo pouch?

Once the jellybean-sized joey is inside its mother’s pouch, the baby kangaroo latches onto one of the four waiting milk ducts, where it stays for the next two months while it continues to develop.

To make the pouch even more beneficial, the milk kangaroos produce contains germ-fighting antibodies, protecting the joey both inside and out – and that’s just the beginning.

Baby kangaroos have different nutrient needs as they age, but mama has that covered too. Each milk duct can create its own type of milk, meaning she can nurse multiple babies of different age groups at the same time.

This allows the average mama kangaroo to raise three young every two years, despite their relatively lengthy development time.

Now, having a baby in her pouch for months at a time does get a little messy. But mother kangaroos simply stick their heads inside their own pouches, scrape out waste with their tongues, and continue on their way. With the waste removed, the antimicrobial sweat glands inside the pouch take care of any lingering germs.

After six long months inside their safe, warm pouch, joeys are ready to begin exploring the world on their own. Sort of. A baby kangaroo will topple out of its mother’s pouch to take its first steps before hopping right back in.

This tentative exploration continues for around two months. When the baby is around 8 months old, it’s finally ready to leave the protection of the pouch for good. But even after it’s moved out, the joey will return to its mother’s pouch now and then for a sip of milk until it’s fully weaned a few months later.