Sam Murray, who captured this curious footage, happened upon this western grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) tucking into a penguin on the beach at Cape Le Grande national park, located east of Esperance, WA in March 2013.
“We were walking down to the beach in the late evening before sunset, and we noticed a group of five or six kangaroos gathered on the beach. We started towards them and all the others were quick to hop away, but not this smaller one,” Sam says.
“He was really quite focussed on what he was doing. Even when we got to within a metre and a half of him, he wouldn’t stop eating.”
Kangaroos sometimes eat meat
Professor Graeme Coulson, a zoologist at the University of Melbourne, explains that “All living macropods appear to be gentle herbivores. They [generally] lack the equipment to capture and kill other animals, or the digestive system to handle a meaty diet.”
While penguins aren’t a typical kangaroo snack, Graeme says that “Australia once had carnivorous macropods. The largest of these was Propleopus oscillans, which stood up to 2 m tall and had teeth that were well adapted to eating meat. This ‘killer kangaroo’ went extinct tens of thousands of years ago.”
While this footage may strike many as peculiar, Professor Tim Flannery, an expert mammalogist, says “This is unusual, I admit, but most herbivores will eat some protein if it’s available. Tree kangaroos will eat birds and even cows will chew on a bone.”
Graeme also recognizes that known herbivores are not all strict vegetarians. “White-tailed deer in the USA have been reported stealing trout from a fishing camp and removing nestlings from nests hidden in prairie grassland. Captive macropods are known to eat a wide range of foods, including chicken and lamb chops. This western grey kangaroo was simply taking advantage of an easy meal,” Graeme says.