A male kangaroo holds the dead mother of a joey.
A male kangaroo holds the dead mother of a joey. Evan Switzer

The ugly truth about that "grieving roo" photograph

SCIENCE has shattered the dreams of thousands of animal-lovers who were touched by a photo of two kangaroos in an embrace.

The photo taken by Fraser Coast photographer Ewan Switzer has captured the imagination of thousands of people across the world, but the real meaning behind it is not so touching.

The image shows a male Eastern Grey Kangaroo seemingly cradling a dead female kangaroo, appearing to mourn its death.

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But Australian Museum principal researcher Mark Eldridge said the picture instead captured a mating ritual.

"He is very wet on the arms and chest which means he is very hot and bothered," he said.

Dr Eldridge said it looked like the male was lifting the dead kangaroo.

"Or he may be trying to rub his chest on her, which is another thing they do," he said.

TOUCHING MOMENT: A male kangaroo clutches what appears to be the dead mother of a Joey.
TOUCHING MOMENT: A male kangaroo clutches what appears to be the dead mother of a Joey. Evan Switzer

Dr Eldridge said it was common for kangaroos to rub their chest on females as part of a courting ritual.

"He is, as you can see from the back of the photo, sexually aroused," he said.

"It's very much a pretext of trying to mate with what seems to be an uncooperative female."

Dr Eldridge said it was common for humans to misinterpret animal behaviour.

"I think humans tend to view the whole world from their perspective," he said.

He said that tendency often led observers astray when it came to interpreting the inner workings of the animal kingdom.



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