Kangaroos Can Learn to Communicate with Humans

Posted at 6:34 AM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 07:34:23-05

A new study says kangaroos can learn to communicate with humans, much like domesticated dogs do. Researchers say kangaroos can use their gaze to "point" and ask for help from people.

"Of course, the little experimental task itself is quite simplistic,” says Alan McElligott, an Associate Professor of Animal Behavior and Welfare at City University of Hong Kong who led the study. “But nevertheless, it was important to carry it out using a wild species. A truly wild species, like kangaroos. Much to our surprise they did show the gazing behavior and the gaze alternations that are usually associated with domestic animals. So, it shows that this effect of trying to deliberately communicate with a human is not really restricted to the usual domestic species that we know, and it was fantastic to find that this actually occurred in kangaroos.”

The study involved 11 kangaroos living in captivity but who had not been domesticated. Ten of the 11 kangaroos gazed at researchers when they were unable to open a food box, according to the report. Nine looked at the person and then at the container, as a way of pointing or gesturing toward it.

Researchers say the findings show it’s not just domesticated animals such as dogs, horses or goats that communicate with humans. The study suggests more animals could also learn how to convey meaning to people.