The Giant Hopper from the “Island Continent”

Synonymous with the island continent of Australia is that interesting animal which you see depicted in this issue of Beacon Lights. The kangaroo is so much a part of Australia that the “giant hopper” is an integral part of the great seal and coat of arms of the continent and dominion of Australia.
The kangaroo is further significant because it represents a notable and interesting group of mammals; i.e. the marsupials or the animals with pouches. Even the small child knows the kangaroo as the animal that carries her babies about with her in a pouch on the underside of her body much like the Indian mother carried her papoose on her back.
Still, we find many other fascinating creatures who also claim our attention in this group. Not only do the colorful little koala, the curious Tasmanian devil, the opossums, the wombats, and the bandicoots belong to it, but it also includes such little-known creatures as pouched mice and moles, and even an animal that can launch itself in the air, the flying phalanger. Among this group is also an American representative. The common or Virginia Opossum and its relatives also belong to the marsupial group of mammals.
At birth, the hands and feet of these tiny bits of life are well formed and somehow they manage to scramble through the mother’s fur to the pouch on her abdomen. They find it a warn, comfortable incubator, equipped with milk taps, and they become inseparably attached to theses teats for the rest of their early life. The animals of this group are too young and too weak to suck, so their mother feeds them forcibly by contracting the muscles in her mammary glands. Literally, she injects nourishment down their little throats.
These animals are called “marsupials” (order Marsupialia), after a Latin word meaning “pouch.” Not all female marsupials have a pouch in which to carry their young, but most of them have some sort of receptacle for this purpose.
The question immediately arises as to the origin of the name “Kangaroo.” The great English explorer of the 18th century, Captain James Cook is said to have seen the kangaroo and asked what it was called. In the dialect of the aborigines of the Endeavor River the word “kangaroo” means “I do not know” and when they replied in this manner it became the word to designate this remarkable animal ever since.
There are many different kinds of kangaroos but in general they live on the ground. One lives in trees and there are the Rat Kangaroos which are also not so familiar but are about the size of a rabbit and are tat-like in appearance. Some of the Rat Kangaroos are hoppers while others move about on all fours.
At one time kangaroos were hunted extensively by the natives for meat. They are still hunted but are harder to find. The hide makes excellent leather for gloves and running shoes. The best type of track shoes are made from kangaroo leather and are excellent because they are soft and light-weight.
The Great Kangaroo lives in the inland plains of New South Wales and the open forests and brush country of Queensland, southwestern Australia, and Tasmania.
As you look at the illustration you will notice that the outstanding feature of the great kangaroo is its extremely lengthy, powerful hind limbs, on which the animal hops about. The long, mighty tail serves it as a prop and also gives added impetus to its leaps.
Traveling at a normal rate, the kangaroo jumps from five to ten feet at a time; and when pressed for speed, it can cover fifteen to twenty feet in a single bound. According to one nature writer, the record jump was made when a Queensland kangaroo chased by dogs cleared a mass of dead timber ten and one-half feet high while the length of the jump was a record twenty-seven feet.
Kangaroos are often encountered in herds or mobs. During the developmental era of Australia it was not unusual to see a thousand head but today it is doubtful whether a mob of a hundred could be found. These groups travel great distances and have no fixed home. They lie down and sleep on the ground like cattle and their diet as a rule consists of vegetable matter. Their average life span is said to be fifteen years.
The young kangaroo or “joey” is carried in the mother’s ouch for the first six months. Rarely is more than one raised at a time. As the joey develops, it takes more and more interest in the outside world, peering about from its safe retreat while its mother hops along, sometimes at a speed of twenty-five miles per hour. If she is hard pressed in flight she may sometimes toss her young into a thicket and lead the pursuers away. Relieved of the extra weight she will escape and then return later to retrieve her joey.
The kangaroo is outwardly timid, and does not like to attack other animals. It depends on its keen sight, hearing, and smell, and on its great speed to escape from its enemies. But if cornered, it will defend itself vigorously. It can strike hard blows with its strong hind legs, while it supports itself by the powerful tail. The long hind feet make good weapons. Each has four toes, and is armed with one claw that is especially long and dangerous. A large male with its back to a tree or wall can protect himself from a whole pack of dogs, and any individual that approaches too close is ripped to shreds by his powerful clawed hind feet.
Kangaroos are gentle in captivity. They can be tamed and have been trained on some occasions.
It is rather remarkable that all the mammals that are native to Australia are the marsupials. Darwin uses this as one of the facts in his book the Origin of Species by Natural Selection to prove his theory that all animals were modified by a process of natural and sexual selection from one or a few parents. Geological surveys prove, he says, that the marsupials are a primary species and that they were wiped out and became extinct in sections where they could not survive. In Australia, however, the marsupials were protected by the “wall” of water, and life remained easy for them till the coming of man.
This is specious reasoning because how would he explain the marsupials in the Americas and also why have not the marsupials changed since they were first observed in the 18th century?
Rather we must take the position that these are all creations from the hand of God and that all these creatures show forth God’s handiwork and his infinite greatness.