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TREE KANGAROO

(Dendrolagus matschiei)
 

 

tree kangaroo range map

Classification and Range

Matschie's tree kangaroos belong to the family Macropodidae, which includes about 54 species of kangaroos. It also belongs to the genus Dendrolagus, which includes 10 species of tree kangaroo. Matschie's tree kangaroo lives in the Huon Peninsula of northeastern Papua New Guinea.

Habitat

Matschie's tree kangaroos live in mountainous rain forests at elevations of up to 6,562 feet (2,000 m). They spend most of their time in trees.

Height

37-70 inches (94-179 cm))

Weight

Adult male: 15-20 pounds (7-9 kg) Adult female: 15-20 pounds (7-9 kg)

Life Span

Unknown in the wild; up to 20 years in zoos

Diet

In the wild: Primarily tree leaves. They also consume flowers, grass shoots and bark, ferns and moss. At the zoo: Apples, carrots, yams, corn on the cob, celery, kale/romaine, high fiber monkey biscuits, tofu, hard-boiled eggs, various types of browse (elm, willow, escalonia, cotoneaster, bamboo) and mineral salt.

Reproduction

The female tree kangaroo gives birth to one offspring after a gestation period of approximately 44 days. After birth, the fetus-like young crawls to a teat located inside the mother’s pouch where it attaches itself to nurse (lactation phase). The majority of the infant's development occurs during lactation. It remains in the pouch for about 10 months. The mother will clean her pouch and groom the infant often during this phase. After the infant initially leaves the pouch, it will continue to return to the pouch to nurse. This "in and out" phase lasts for one or two months. During the final phase, the young still nurses but never climbs completely into the pouch. The young is weaned approximately 13 months after birth. After young Matschie's tree kangaroos are weaned they stay with the mother for about 18 months when they then disperse and establish a home range.

Life Cycle

Little is known about the social behavior of wild tree kangaroos. Researchers believe that Matschie's tree kangaroos are fairly solitary animals. Females and males have non-overlapping home ranges but a male's range will overlap several females' range. Researchers also believe that Matschie’s tree kangaroos are polygamous and that males will interact with several females.

Males, however, appear not to establish "harems," and females remain independent. The only strong social bond these animals form is between mother and offspring. In captivity, Matschie's tree kangaroos are somewhat social. Interactions include nose contact, grooming and chasing one another. Most interactions are initiated by a male toward a female and are usually associated with mating. Often the female will act defensively toward the male.

I Just Want to Be Alone

In captivity, if females are isolated from all other animals after becoming pregnant, offspring almost always survive. These observations show that Matschie’s tree kangaroos are mostly solitary animals.

Location at the Zoo

A male tree kangaroo is currently exhibited in the zoo's Day Exhibit.

Conservation Connection

Matschie's tree kangaroos are an endangered species according to IUCN. They survive only in a small area on the island of New Guinea. Habitat destruction caused by logging and mineral and oil exploration are a danger to tree kangaroo populations. Also, hunting by local people is decreasing the number of wild tree kangaroos. Woodland Park Zoo is a leader in captive breeding and reproduction research on the Matschie’s tree kangaroo.

As of 1997, 11 Matschie's tree kangaroos have been born at the zoo. The staff at Woodland Park Zoo were the first to recognize the importance of isolating females after mating to reduce stress on the mother and increase infant survival rates. Zoo staff are also cooperating with other zoos and institutions to formulate a vaccine which will protect tree kangaroos and other marsupials from avian and human tuberculosis, to which they are highly susceptible. For more conservation information about tree kangaroos, visit our Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program page in our Conservation Section.

How You Can Help!

The effort to save vulnerable, threatened and endangered species requires cooperation and support at the international, national, regional and individual levels. You can help in this cause. Join and become active in Woodland Park Zoo and other conservation organizations of your choice. Contact your elected representatives and express your views about conservation and endangered species and wild habitats. Contact Woodland Park Zoo at webkeeper@zoo.org to find out ways you can support conservation programs at the zoo. Learn other ways you can help conserve wildlife and the habitats they require for survival by visiting our How You Can Help page.

Sources and Suggested Reading

Flannery, T. F. 1997. Tree-Kangaroo: A Rare History. Reed Books, Pty. Ltd., Balgowlah, New South Wales.

Macdonald, David, ed. 1993. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Facts on File, Inc., New York, NY. 895 p.

Nowak, Ronald M., ed. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. 5th Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London. 1,629 p.

For Kids!

Zoobooks. 1993. Koalas and Other Australian Animals. Wildlife Education Ltd., San Diego, CA. 16 p.

Tree Kangaroo Taxonomy

Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Macropodidae
Family: Macropodidae
Genus:Dendrolagus
Species:D. matschiei

Tree Kangaroo Fascinating Facts

  • Matschie's tree kangaroos can leap 60 feet (18m) to the ground from trees without getting hurt.
  • Instead of sweating, Matschie's tree kangaroos lick their forearms and allow the evaporation to help cool their bodies.
  • Young Matschie's tree kangaroos are called joeys.
 
 
 
 

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