As It Happens

Scientist says viral kangaroo photos are all sex and no grief

An Australian scientist says viral photographs of a "grieving" kangaroo were misinterpreted. Mark Eldridge says the kangaroo in question isn't grieving the loss of his companion — he wants to mate with her.
Photographs of these kangaroos were shared widely across the web earlier this week. (Evan Switzer)

An Australian zoologist says photographs of a "grieving" kangaroo that went viral earlier this week were misinterpreted.

"It's not quite the tender picture that was presented," scientist Mark Eldridge, of the Australian Museum, tells As it Happens host Carol Off. "There's a female in heat who has collapsed, or is dead for some reason, and the male is still trying to continue to court her."

The hotter they get, the more and more they lick. He has licked and salivated all over his arms.- Mark Eldridge

When the images were first shared earlier this week, many news outlets reported that they showed a male kangaroo grieving the loss of his companion.

But, Eldridge says if you take a closer look, it's obvious that the male kangaroo is "hot and bothered."

"You could tell by the wet forearms," says Eldridge. "The hotter they get, the more and more they lick. He has licked and salivated all over his arms."

Eldridge suspects that the female kangaroo died while the male was trying to mate with her.

"Sometimes the females are uncooperative and the male manipulates her into a position where he can proceed with the mating. I think he's doing that behaviour and hasn't realized that she's not responding because she's dead."


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