Tree kangaroos: best photos ever taken

By John Pickrell | February 25, 2013

An Australian Geographic expedition has resulted in the best photos of elusive Bennett’s tree kangaroos, say experts.

AN AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHIC photographer has captured the best professional images ever taken of wild Bennett’s tree kangaroos, according to the leading expert on the species.

Photographer Bill Hatcher was part of an expedition searching for Bennett’s tree kangaroos in late 2012. The party also included Roger Martin, world expert on the species at James Cook University in Townsville, trackers and local farmers Charlie and Lewis Roberts, and Bana Yarralji Bubu Aboriginal rangers.

The images feature prominently in a special 18-page cover feature in the March/April issue of Australian Geographic, which also includes maps, detailed illustrations and lavish photography of all the tree kangaroos of Australia and New Guinea.

Bennet’s tree kangaroos have a very limited range centred on the Daintree Rainforest and are rare and elusive. None are found in captivity.

Tree kangaroos rarely photographed

“Good photos of Bennett’s are very hard to find,” says Roger, partly because these animals are near impossible to locate in the Daintree Rainforest, even with expert help – and also because they are often very high up in the canopy. “You have to be lucky to get a good shot and these are good shots.”

Today we know of 17 species and subspecies of tree kangaroo, making up quite a chunk of the 70 known kangaroo species. However they have remained so little known that zoologist Professor Tim Flannery of Macquarie University, Sydney, discovered four of them in the 1990s.

It’s difficult to say exactly why these fascinating animals are so little known. “They’re very cryptic and obscure and are all found in remote habitats. It’s very hard to get any decent film of them,” Tim says. “But they represent a lot of the total kangaroo diversity. It’s probably just that most of it’s outside Australia.”

Watch a video of tree kangaroos taken on the expedition

Read the full story in issue 113 (Mar/Apr) of the Australian Geographic journal.

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Australia’s two tree kangaroo species are:

Bennett’s tree kangaroo
Dendrolagus bennettianus      
Found in montane and lowland rainforest over a small range from Cooktown to the Daintree River, QLD. A species that reaches 14kg, its Aboriginal name is tcharibeena. Population growing because it is no longer hunted.

Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo
Dendrolagus lumholtzi 
The smallest of the species, averaging just 6-7kg. Aboriginal names include boongary and mabi. Inhabits montane rainforest above 800m from Mossman south to Ingham in QLD. Common in rainforest patches on the Atherton Tablelands. Population falling, but relatively secure.

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