Photo: Juvenile Matschie's tree kangaroo

Photograph courtesy Russell A. Mittermeier/Conservation International

Fast Facts

Type:
Mammal
Diet:
Herbivore
Average life span in captivity:
Up to 20 years
Size:
37 to 70 in (94 to 179 cm)
Weight:
Adults: 15 to 22 pounds (7 to 10 kg)
Protection status:
Endangered
Did you know?
Matschie's tree kangaroos can leap 60 feet (18 meters) to the ground from trees without getting hurt.
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
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Tree kangaroos are found only in the rain forests of Australia, West Papua, and Papua New Guinea. Six of ten species are found in Papua New Guinea, in some of the last undisturbed rain forest habitat in the world.

The Matschie's tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus matschiei) is endemic to the Huon Peninsula on the northeast coast of Papua New Guinea. It is classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 2004 Red List as endangered.

Matschie's tree kangaroos live in mountainous cloud forests at elevations of up to 11,000 feet (3,350 meters). They spend most of their time in trees. Tree kangaroos primarily eat tree leaves. They also consume flowers, grass shoots, ferns, moss, and bark.

Female tree kangaroos give birth to one offspring after a gestation period of approximately 44 days. After birth, the fetus-like young, called a joey, crawls to a teat located inside the mother's pouch, where it attaches itself to nurse. The majority of the infant's development occurs during this lactation phase.

The joey remains in the pouch for about ten months. The mother will clean her pouch and groom the infant often during this phase. After the infant initially leaves the pouch at eight months, 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.

Young tree kangaroos are weaned when they are approximately 13 months old. They stay with their mothers until they are about 18 months old, when they disperse and establish a home range.

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 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, 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.

—Text courtesy Woodland Park Zoo

Tree Kangaroo Features

  • Photo: Tree kangaroos

    Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program

    This program uses a community-based strategy to document the natural history and conservation status of tree kangaroos through scientific research and interviews with local people.

  • Video: Tree Kangaroo Conservation

    The endangered Matschie's tree kangaroo's habitat in Papua New Guinea is part of the country's first nationally designated conservation area.

  • Elusive Tree Kangaroos Get Cameras

    The hard-to-reach "plush toys" of Papua New Guinea have been outfitted with "Crittercams" for the first time. The breathtaking treetop footage is already solving tree kangaroo mysteries.

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