Why you should definitively not feed kangaroos

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 03/11/2020

Reading time: 3 mins

One of the golden rules of seeing wildlife is, do not feed them! But why?

Sometimes it can feel like guides or rangers are being spoilsports when they say you’re not allowed to touch or feed wild animals, such as the kangaroos on Kangaroo Island, but there are some good reasons why.

They can’t digest human food

Wild animals, much like us, are made to digest specific foods and specific foods only. Just like we can’t digest grass, kangaroos have not developed to digest the vegemite sandwich you’re so eagerly feeding them.

Kangaroos have a very narrow diet and there is a good reason for it, so don’t risk making a kangaroo sick by trying to feed them new human foods.

They become addicted

Yes, we will forgive you for finding this a bit funny, we do too!

Another reason to not feed kangaroos is that they can, and do, become addicted to human foods. One of the foods most commonly fed to kangaroos by tourists are carrots. We’re not sure why, maybe it has something to do with horses liking carrots, who knows!

Regardless of why people choose to feed kangaroo carrots, they are super bad for them. Carrots are naturally high in sugar, much higher than the grass kangaroo usually eat. This sugar rush is addictive and there are cases of wild kangaroos becoming addicted to carrots. They quickly learn to associate people with that high and can become aggressive when they see humans as they become desperate for the sugar hit.

Fruit and vegetable addiction is so common in wild animals that many zoos and conservation parks have stopped feeding them to their animals to prevent weight gain and addiction!

It changes natural behaviours

Wild kangaroos are exactly that, wild. Feeding them can severely inhibit their wild skills and result in starvation and population decline.

Kangaroos are natural foragers and they need to maintain these skills to survive and pass the knowledge onto their young. When people frequent certain areas to feed kangaroos, they become reliant on the free feed and stop foraging.

This is a significant long-term issue as they stop performing natural behaviours. When travelling into a wild animal’s habitat we must be sure to not hinder that habitat or indeed cause changes to their natural behaviours. Additionally, if kangaroos stop foraging, there is a broader impact on their environment and the species around them.

It can result in disease and pain

In case you’ve missed it above, kangaroos are designed to eat grass. Their teeth are specifically positioned to grind the grass when they eat. If they continue to eat non-grass material their teeth are likely to wear down and prevent them from eating properly in the long run.

Additionally, feeding kangaroos human foods expose them to new diseases. The last thing that anyone wants is for a disease to tear through the kangaroo population because they were being fed the wrong foods.

Some people choose to offer bread to kangaroos, under the idea that it is soft and therefore okay for them to process. Unfortunately, this can lead to a whole host of other jaw issues for kangaroos.

As you can see, there is a plethora of reasons you shouldn’t feed a kangaroo! So please, do the Kangaroo Island kangaroos a favour, and look but don’t feed.

Related article: The life cycle of a baby kangaroo

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.