Kingaroo the Kangaroo

We all know how much Americans love our native wildlife but did you know about Kingaroo, a young female Eastern Grey kangaroo that ventured from Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to San Diego Zoo via the US Navy?

Kingaroo’s story came to life through letters in the collection from William L Read, Commander in the US Navy, to Paul Robertson from the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

In 1968, Kingaroo was gifted from Lone Pine to the San Diego Zoo and made her journey there via the USS King, an American warship operating in the Pacific region. The sailors dubbed her Kingaroo after their ship.

Commander Read’s first letter provides an update on the little joey:

all is going well with “Kingaroo”. She has turned out to be a marvelous sailor in spite of some pretty rough weather. She is thriving on a diet of salt air, cracked corn, and jelly sandwiches, and seems quite content although a bit skittish from too much attention, perhaps.

Makes us feel a little sorry for her! Commander Read mentions in his letter that they will soon be making port at San Diego with some interesting (others might say humiliating) plans for the first glimpses of Kingaroo by the US public:

Present plans are for Kingaroo to be stationed on one of the upper decks dressed in a uniform which has been produced for her on board. How ever, she may have some plans of her own with regard to this latter feature.

Sounds like she fought to keep her dignity!

In a later letter, Commander Read writes again that Kingaroo’s arrival to San Diego created quite a buzz and she garnered some fame in her first months in America. He states:

We arrived in port with Kingaroo stationed proudly on deck up forward in full view of the assembled multitude. She was very ladylike throughout ceremonies although she did lose her “cool” when masses of children seemed to be closing in on her. However, after a brief period of retirement in an ante room she was ready to meet her public again.

With all the excitement surrounding Kingaroo, Commander Read’s family must have been excited when he brought her home to stay ‘for the weekend’ after their arrival to San Diego.

Following the presentation of Kingaroo to the San Diego Zoo, Commander Read mentions that there are plans for a special plaque to be installed on her enclosure to state that she is a gift of the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and is sponsored by the USS King.

If you’d like to know more, we found a reminiscence online written by Commander Read’s widow about the time her husband brought home the kangaroo in response to a request from his 11 year old son! You can find more about this charming story at

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