Frank Knight Red Kangaroo
Frank Knight, Red Kangaroo, Megaleia Rufa
Born in Port Hedland, Western Australia in 1941, Frank Knight is best known as a wildlife illustrator and artist. He worked initially as a field and laboratory assistant for CSIRO before going onto work as a Divisional Illustrator for Wildlife Research between 1966 and 1989. His illustrations are included in books such as Kangaroos by H Frith and J Calaby and Pigeons and Doves of Australia and Kadimakara Australian Vertebrate Fossils. His designs also include the symbol for the 1974 International Ornithological Congress and the 1979 Wildlflower Series for Australia Post. Frank is known also for wining the prize in acrylics for his artwork for the Society of Wildlife Art of Australiasia in 1981.
In 2019. Frank Knight exhibited a series of his illustrations in the visitor Information centre, Black Mountain, Canberra titled 'Black Mountain in Miniatures'.
The Work of Art
Red Kangaroo is a gouache painting on paper created in 1977. Although this is a small work of art, it is a beautiful illustration that captures the character of Megaleia Rufa. It stands upright looking quizzically towards the viewer on a rough patch of ground.
Megaleia Rufa itself, is the largest marsupial animal that inhabits central portions of Australia preferring open plains and sparsely wooded areas. Males tend to be orange red in colouring while females are often blue grey. Both males and females are a lighter whitish colour underneath. Red Kangaroos can be distinguished from other species of kangaroos by the black and white patches on their cheeks and the broad white stripe that extends from the corner of the mouth to ear. Male Red Kangaroos are double the body weight of females and can weigh up to 92kg while the females can weigh up to 39kg.
Red Kangaroos are herbivores, primarily grazing on grasses but also eat forbs and leaves of shrubs. The Red Kangaroo has the ability to survive when water is scarce. The herbage and foliage that the Kangaroo eats provides them with their water needs as well as their nutritional requirements. In times of drought, Red Kangaroo populations can suffer as their food supplies diminish. The abundance of food is a determining factor in the Red Kangaroo life cycle.
Reproduction is very sensitive to environmental conditions. The Red Kangaroo breeds all year round, however spring and summer tend to be times when most young are born. The females have the unique ability to delay birth of their baby until their previous Joey has left the pouch. This is called embryonic diapause. Females have one baby at a time, which at birth is the size of a jellybean. The infant immediately climbs into its mother's pouch and the gestation period is around 33 days. Until they reach about eight months of age, threatened young kangaroos, called joeys, will quickly dive for the safety of mom's pouch. As they grow, joeys' heads and feet can often be seen hanging out of the pouch. The young Joey will permanently leave the pouch at around 235 days old, but will continue to suckle until it reaches 12 months of age. (Courtesy of the Australian National Museum).
Frank Knight, Encyclopedia of Australian Science, www.eoas.info/biogs/P003162b.thm
Australian National Museum, Red Kangaroo, https://australianmuseum.net.au/learn/animals/mammals/red-kangaroo/