Goodfellow's Tree Kangaroo

11 Interesting Facts About Tree Kangaroos

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Introduction

Tree kangaroos are a fascinating group of marsupials that live in the tropical rainforests of New Guinea, far northeastern Australia, and some of the islands in the region. Although they look similar to their ground-dwelling cousins, tree kangaroos have adapted to an arboreal lifestyle, spending most of their time up in the trees.

Tree kangaroos are threatened by habitat loss and hunting, with many species endangered. However, they remain mysterious creatures that capture people’s imaginations. Read on to learn 11 captivating tree kangaroo facts.

Interesting Facts About Tree Kangaroos

Tree Kangaroo
Tree Kangaroo by Wichid is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .
  1. There are 14 species of tree kangaroo. Tree kangaroos belong to the genus Dendrolagus, which includes 14 recognized species. They range from the grizzled tree kangaroo, one of the largest at over 30 pounds, to the tiny Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo, which weighs only around 13 pounds.
  2. Tree kangaroos have adapted feet and tails for climbing. Tree kangaroos have shorter hind legs and stronger forelimbs compared to terrestrial kangaroos, making it easier for them to climb. Their feet also have non-slip pads and long, curved nails to grip branches. Additionally, their long, muscular tail helps balance them in the treetops.
  3. Most species are endangered. Of the 14 tree kangaroo species, 11 are considered endangered or critically endangered. This is mainly due to habitat destruction, hunting, and the pet trade. For example, the golden-mantled tree kangaroo has lost an estimated 99% of its historical habitat.
  4. They inhabit tropical rainforests. Tree kangaroos live in tropical rainforests and cloud forests at elevations between sea level and 11,000 feet. Different species occupy both lowland and mountainous forest habitats. Their diet consists mostly of leaves, ferns, flowers, moss, and bark.
  5. Tree kangaroos play an important cultural role. Tree kangaroos are culturally significant for indigenous groups in New Guinea. Their meat is an important food source, while their fur is used for ceremonial dress. Unsustainable hunting contributes to the threat faced by tree kangaroos.
  6. Females have a pouch up front. Like all marsupials, female tree kangaroos raise their young in a pouch. But unlike terrestrial kangaroos, their pouch opens at the front of their abdomen rather than the back. This likely makes it easier for joeys to access the pouch while their mother is climbing.
  7. They spend most of their time in trees. As their name suggests, tree kangaroos spend up to 96% of their time up in trees. On the rare occasion, they descend to the forest floor, they hop around on all four legs rather than hopping bipedally like their ground-dwelling cousins.
  8. Tree kangaroos help disperse seeds. The fruit and seeds that makeup part of tree kangaroos’ diet get dispersed through the forest when they defecate at different locations in the canopy. This helps regenerate their rainforest habitat.
  9. They practice “cloacal kissing.” Male and female tree kangaroos sniff and lick each other’s cloacas (multi-purpose openings on their abdomen) as a form of greeting. Scientists think this “cloacal kissing” behavior allows them to pick up chemical cues about each other.
  10. Joey leaves the pouch at 10 months. Baby tree kangaroos called joeys spend their first 10 months of life developing in their mother’s pouch. They start poking their heads out around 5 months but don’t permanently leave the pouch until 10 months old.
  11. They help fertilize trees. Tree kangaroos descending to the forest floor will sometimes scratch their chests against tree trunks, leaving traces of saliva behind. Researchers found this saliva carries nitrogen and phosphates that may provide nutrients to the trees.

Conclusion

Tree kangaroos display an intriguing mix of features shared with terrestrial kangaroos along with many unique adaptations to an arboreal life. Sadly, many of these special creatures face an uncertain future due to human activities like logging and hunting. However, conservation programs aimed at protecting tree kangaroo habitat can help ensure the survival of these captivating marsupials. Their preservation is key not only for biodiversity’s sake but also for maintaining the culture of indigenous groups. Hopefully, these 11 facts shed more light on the wonder that is the tree kangaroo.


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