Doria’s tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus dorianus)
|Also known as:||unicolored tree kangaroo|
|Size||Head-body length: 52 – 81 cm (2)|
Tail length: 40 – 94 cm (2)
Maximum weight: 20 kg (2)
Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
Doria’s tree kangaroo, the heaviest tree-dwelling marsupial in the world (2), is, despite appearances, closely related to the well-known kangaroos that can be found on the plains of Australia (3). Like the ground kangaroos, Doria’s tree kangaroo has a long, well-furred tail, strongly developed hindquarters, and females have a forward-opening pouch in which the newborn infants develop (2) (3). Its fairly long fur is a shade of brown (2), with the fur on the neck and back growing in a reverse direction, thought to stop water running over the face of the tree kangaroo as it sits with its head lower than its shoulders (2). The large feet bear cushion-like pads covered with roughened skin, and some of the nails are curved. This, along with the tail which helps the tree kangaroo balance and brace itself when climbing, makes this species adept at living in the trees (2). The scientific name of Doria’s tree kangaroo, Dendrolagus, is derived from Greek words ‘dendron’, meaning tree, and ‘lagos’ meaning hare (4).
Doria’s tree kangaroo occurs only on the island of New Guinea (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea), where it is found in the central highlands (5).
An inhabitant of mountainous rainforest, Doria’s tree kangaroo occurs between 600 and 4,000 metres above sea level (2).
On the ground, Doria’s tree kangaroo moves in a similar manner to its Australian relatives, making small leaps on its two hindfeet (4), while in the trees, this agile marsupial moves using all four limbs (2) (4). It travels along branches and trunks grasping the tree’s limbs with its clawed forepaws and pushing with its broad feet (3), and can leap as much as nine metres downwards to a neighbouring tree (2). Doria’s tree kangaroo spends much of its time in the relative safety of the trees, often sheltering in small groups during the day, but it will also frequently descend to the ground, by moving backwards down the trunk, or jumping impressive heights (up to 18 metres) down to the forest floor, without injury (2).
Doria’s tree kangaroo feeds whilst up in the trees, or down on the ground, consuming a diet of primarily leaves and fruit (2). As it moves about, the males may vigorously rub the large glands on their throat and chest against the tree branches and trunk (3) (6). The scented secretions that are left behind act as signposts to other tree kangaroos, providing information about an individual’s identity and location (6).
The gestation period in this species is thought to last for around 32 days, with just one tiny, undeveloped infant being born at a time (2). After climbing up the mother’s fur into her pouch, the newborn tree kangaroo will clamp its mouth onto one of the four teats and remain there for the next 305 days, until it is developed enough to emerge (2).
While in some areas Doria’s tree kangaroo is believed to still be common (5), intense and relentless hunting pressure for its flesh has led to many populations disappearing (4). Those inhabiting forest on lower, more accessible mountain slopes are particularly vulnerable to hunting (5), and with these populations vanishing, hunters will now venture higher and higher into the mountains (4), increasing pressure on populations that were once remote and secure (5). While in the past, hunting of this prized game species by local people may have been sustainable, advances in the equipment used in a hunt (such as steel axes to cut through the forest, and firearms to shoot the kangaroos out of the trees), in combination with a rising human population (5), has led to an increase in hunting that this Vulnerable marsupial may not be able to withstand. The threat of hunting is compounded by the loss and degradation of suitable forest habitat, which has been, and continues to be, exploited for timber in the central highlands where this tree kangaroo dwells (5).
The Doria’s tree kangaroo is legally protected in the Indonesian part of New Guinea, but not in Papua New Guinea (5). This is unlikely to be sufficient to ensure the long-term survival of this Vulnerable species, and thus protection of the vital habitat in which Doria’s tree kangaroo occurs has been recommended, as have measures to control or restrict traditional hunting (5).
For further information on conservation in Papua New Guinea see:
The Nature Conservancy:
To learn more about Doria's tree kangaroo, visit:
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- Gestation: the state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- Marsupial: a diverse group of mammals characterised by their reproduction, in which gestation is very short, and the female typically has a pouch (marsupium) in which the young are raised. When born, the tiny young crawls to the mother’s teats, where it attaches and stays for a variable amount of time, whilst it continues to develop. Marsupials also differ from placental mammals in their dentition.
IUCN Red List (April, 2008)
- Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
- Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Martin, R., Martin, R. and Simpson, S. (2005) Tree Kangaroos of Australia and New Guinea. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
- Thornback, J. and Jenkins, M. (1982) The IUCN Mammal Red Data Book. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
- Armati, P.J., Dickman, C.R. and Hume, I.D. (2006) Marsupials. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.