Canberra: Kangaroos are able to communicate with their keepers and ask them for help, according to a study by the University of Sydney (UoS) and University of Roehampton (UoR) in London.
The study, released on Wednesday, involved placing food in a closed plastic container that the kangaroos were unable to open, reports Xinhua news agency.
After trying and failing to reach the food, the kangaroos would gaze at and interact with nearby keepers, showing a remarkable depth of understanding.
"We've previously thought only domesticated animals try to ask for help with a problem. But kangaroos do it too," said study co-author Alexandra Green, a post-doctoral researcher at the UoS School of Veterinary Science.
"If they can't open the box, they look at the human and back to the container. Some of them used their nose to nudge the human and some approached the human and started scratching at him asking for assistance."
Nine of the 11 kangaroos tested altered their gaze between the container and the keeper, which is considered a heightened form of communication.
Lead author Alan McElligott from UoR, who is now based at City University of Hong Kong, explained that like dogs, kangaroos are social animals and may be able to adapt their natural social behaviours with each other for interacting with humans.
"Through this study, we were able to see that communication between animals can be learnt and that the behaviour of gazing at humans to access food is not related to domestication," McElligott said.
"Indeed, kangaroos showed a very similar pattern of behaviour we have seen in dogs, horses and even goats when put to the same test." While the kangaroos in the study were not wild and had past experience with humans, they were not considered "domesticated".
Those behind the study, which is the first of its kind conducted with marsupials, hope it will lead to a greater appreciation regarding the cognitive abilities of different types of animals and more positive attitudes towards Australia's iconic kangaroos.