The identification of the mammal at the top of our general admissions entrance area seems to stump everyone who sees it. Tree kangaroos are not common in captivity, and with Matschie’s tree kangaroos (Dendrolagus matschiei) being in about two dozen facilities nationwide, they are not often seen by zoo and aquarium visitors.
Because Matschie’s tree kangaroos are part of the Macropodidae family, they are kangaroos like their name implies (other species in this family include wallabies, wallaroos and pademelons). Most species of the Macropodidae family have adapted to terrestrial living, or living on the ground. Tree kangaroos are an island species specific to the Huon Peninsula, a large, rugged peninsula on eastern Papua New Guinea where they can be found in mountainous rainforests. They have adapted to a special niche (as also indicated by their common name) — they live in trees. Tree kangaroos are known as food generalists when it comes to plants, eating more than 90 species of different plants in the wild. Their long tails and nails help keep them in the trees and unlike their ground-living relatives, they can move their hind legs independently of each other. The average weight of an adult is 15-20 pounds and they stand between 37-70 inches.
A female reaches sexual maturity at about two years of age, with a 1.5 to 2-year interval between births. It’s a hard trek to becoming a full grown tree kangaroo, starting with the long journey all the way into its mother’s pouch. The majority of the infant’s development will happen in its mother’s pouch (around 10 months total). For about two months of its final development, it will make short trips out, but return to nurse in its mother’s pouch. Approximately 13 months after birth, the baby is weaned; no longer dependent upon its mother for sustenance.
Here at DWA we are excited to have a joey; the first for our female and our second generation of tree kangaroos born at our facility. Keeper and night staff confirmed the presence of the joey near the end of 2013, making our baby old enough to start venturing out on its own. Mom and baby have access to a holding area throughout the day but are taking more trips out to explore and climb. Now that you have the upper hand when it comes to identifying this uncommon species, come out to DWA and try your hand at spotting this elusive species!