Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus goodfellowi)

Also known as: Ornate tree-kangaroo
GenusDendrolagus (1)
SizeHead-and-body length: 55 to 77 cm (2)
Tail length: 70 to 85 cm (2)
Weight6 to 10 kg (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Like other tree kangaroos, Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo differs noticeably from the better-known ground kangaroos because it has developed specialised adaptations to its arboreal lifestyle (2). These include shorter hind limbs, strong, stocky arms, and a long tail for balance while leaping among the branches (2) (3). The feet are also broader than those of ground kangaroos, and have padded soles to aid with gripping and sharp curved claws for climbing (2) (3). This slender-bodied tree kangaroo has short, usually woolly fur that ranges from chestnut-brown to crimson (3), with a paler underside, grey-brown face and yellow neck, cheeks and feet (2). A characteristic pair of golden stripes runs down the centre of the back and each individual has a unique pattern of yellow rings and blotches on the tail (4). Males are slightly larger than females (5).

Reported to occur from the border of central Irian Jaya, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea through central and eastern Papua New Guinea (6).

This species occurs mainly in dense tropical rainforests and deciduous forests over mountainous ranges, from 680 to 2,865 metres above sea level (5) (6).

Goodfellow’s tree kangaroos are primarily solitary (2), with large male territories overlapping several smaller female territories (5), and breeding occurs year-round (2) (6). As a marsupial, the female of this species has a well-developed pouch on its abdomen into which the tiny newborn climbs, where it grows for up to the next ten to twelve months. Even after it leaves the pouch, the joey continues to return to nurse for several months (3). Sexual maturity is reached at two years of age, and individuals have been known to live over 14 years in captivity (5).

A superb climber and capable of leaping long distances, this tree kangaroo spends much of its time in the trees, but also frequently descends to the ground in search of food (6). A largely nocturnal species, Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo emerges at night to feed mainly on leaves and fruit, but also on flowers, grass and even cereals along the forest edges. Its large, sacculated stomach is specially adapted to this diet, allowing the breakdown and digestion of tough leafy material (3).

Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo is considered Endangered, as a result of over-hunting and habitat loss (3). Hunted for its meat, this species appears to be extremely vulnerable to poaching, having rapidly disappeared from areas of intensive hunting, even by surprisingly small human populations (6). Dwindling habitat is also a major cause for concern, with forest having been destroyed due to logging, mining, oil exploration and agriculture. Lowland rainforest has undergone extensive clearance and those populations still surviving in highland forest have been fragmented and isolated, markedly limiting their opportunity for out-breeding (3).

Its occurrence in a reasonable number of National Parks and reserves has helped ensure the survival of Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo, as has the almost complete lack of any large tree-climbing predators or competitors (3). However, there are currently no direct conservation measures in place for this endangered species, which will require greater protection of its rapidly diminishing habitat and stricter restrictions to hunting if it is to recover.

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  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)