Cambridge, UK – Kangaroos were said to be low methane producers and were therefore considered as environmentally friendly. However, a study released Wednesday in the Journal of Experimental Biology revealed that their gas emissions were not much lower than those produced by cows.
Around 39% of livestock’s greenhouse emissions worldwide come from ruminant’s fermentation digestive processes. Methane makes up about 44% of all greenhouse emissions produced globally in terms of livestock, as informed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Study author and zoologist Dr. Munn explained to The Christian Science Monitor in an interview that “Kangaroos are low-methane, but they’re not any lower than other herbivores that are non-ruminant, like horses.” He added, “The idea that kangaroos have unique gut microbes has been floating around for some time and a great deal of research has gone into discovering these apparently unique microbes.”
For the study, researchers separated two groups of kangaroos. One of them had plenty of food, and the others had it rationed. They discovered that the kangaroos produced more methane when they had limited food and ate less, which means that the lesser they eat, the longer the food stays in their foregut. As a consequence, they have more time to digest the microorganisms.
One of the main findings of this research is that most of the methane produced by these animals comes from the back end, not the front end.
Compared to sheep and cows, Munn said, “It’s like the environment in the kangaroos’ fore-stomach is almost like a new environment every time, whereas, in something like a sheep or a cow, it’s like a really well-established forest.”
Moreover, the lead author commented that there still is a discussion about using or not the microbial population from kangaroo’s gut in order to transplant it into sheep and cows, so they can reduce the methane emissions that come from those plant eaters. However, those microbes might not be helpful, since the way kangaroos digest food is what determines their methane emissions.
If cows and sheep could digest their food as quickly as kangaroos, they might release less methane during the process, the study suggests.
Source: The Washington Post