How you can help save one of the world’s rarest and least known kangaroos

By Clare Anderson 3 July 2017
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With major losses to the marsupials habitat, the Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo is considered a threatened species.

THE LUMHOLTZ’S TREE kangaroo is one if our most intriguing marsupials. Unlike most other kangaroos it lives in treetops, using its long black tail and muscular arms to scales the rainforests of Tropical North Queensland where it hides within the canopy.

Presently listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as near threatened, much of the specie’s remaining habitat is now protected within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. This, however, has become fragmented as large segments of rainforest have been reduced to a patchwork, forcing the Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo population to traverse open pastures, developed areas and major roads. As a result, road accidents have become a major issue for tree kangaroos in the region. So too have attacks by both domestic and wild dogs.

Wildlife Habitat, a wildlife immersion experience in the coastal North Queensland town of Port Douglas, has been dedicated to working with the Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo since 2001. Here, wildlife lovers are given the opportunity to watch and learn about the unusual marsupial as well as with other species native to the area.

The Port Douglas facility has been able to provide a safe and secure home for rescued tree kangaroos that can’t be released back into the wild due to the severity of their injuries. These animals become part of a captive breeding program that’s playing a vital role in helping to ensure the future of the species.

Many of  Wildlife Habit’s visitors, both domestic and international, have never heard of, let alone seen, a tree kangaroo. “They are so strange,” one volunteer at the centre recently recalled. “It’s amazing to watch them climbing around the branches, seeing how they balance and just curl up and sleep in the trees.”

A volunteer’s average day involves everything from cleaning the animals’ enclosures to feeding them, which includes both the provision of natural foods and preparation of supplements.  Some tasks are unusual but important, such as observing, counting and recording tree kangaroo faecal pellets, which helps in monitoring the health and food intake of individuals. 

As well as helping to boost numbers, establishing a sustainable captive population of tree kangaroos assists in creating awareness of the species and promotes achievable conservation outcomes. 

Given the current status of the Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo, sustaining the wild population and reducing the threats is the most crucial component to maintaining this species. The Wildlife Habitat works with organisations like the community-based Tree Kangaroo Rescue and Conservation centre, Mammal Group and Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands, which revegetates prime tree kangaroo habitat.

Clare is the General Manager at the Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat and the Wildlife Curator at Cairns, Port Trips and Attraction (CAPTA).

Brought to you by Tourism Tropical North Queensland.