'Grieving Kangaroo' Is Actually Really, Really Horny, Expert Says

"Great photos of the kangaroos, but I think they are fundamentally misinterpreted."

What first appeared to be a tender image of a kangaroo grieving over his dying mate might actually show something quite different. 

The image, which went viral, shows what some believe is a male kangaroo raising the head of a dying female so she can look at their little joey one last time.

In reality, the male kangaroo may have had something else in mind entirely.

He was "trying to get a female to stand up so he can mate with her," Mark Eldridge, principal research scientist at the Australian Museum, said in a blog post.

"Great photos of the kangaroos, but I think they are fundamentally misinterpreted," Eldridge said.

He explained: 

"The male is clearly highly stressed and agitated, his forearms are very wet from him licking himself to cool down. He is also sexually aroused: the evidence is here sticking out from behind the scrotum (yes, in marsupials the penis is located behind the scrotum)."

Photographer Evan Switzer, who snapped the viral photo, told the Daily Mail that it was "a pretty special thing" and said he believed the male was "mourning the loss of his mate."

Switzer, who doesn't know what killed the female, said the male was even chasing other males away.

But experts say that behavior is also consistent with kangaroo mating.

Derek Spielman, a senior lecturer in veterinary pathology at the University of Sydney, told Guardian Australia that he had "no doubt" the male was trying to mate and that he was in fact "mate guarding," or fending off other males. 

Male kangaroos can get highly aggressive when trying to mate, Spielman said. They sometimes fight other males and even the female, especially if she shows little interest.

"Pursuit of these females by males can be persistent and very aggressive to the point where they can kill the female," Spielman told the newspaper. "That is not their intention but that unfortunately can be the result, so interpreting the male’s actions as being based on care for the welfare of the female or the joey is a gross misunderstanding, so much so that the male might have actually caused the death of the female."


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