Who’s peeking out of that pouch? It’s a Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo, saying hello to the world for the first time. Born at Zoo Miami, the joey is only the second of this endangered species born in the United States this year.
Photo Credit: Ron Magill Still mostly hairless, the joey was about the size of a jelly bean when it was born five months ago. It crawled unassisted into the pouch, where it latched onto a teat. Since then, the joey has been nursing and growing inside mom’s pouch. The joey will remain in the pouch for several more months, but will gradually start to explore the world on its own until it is weaned at about one year of age. The pouch, however, will remain a safe haven – most joeys try to squeeze inside even when they are far too large to fit.
The joey’s gender has not been determined, but it will eventually become part of an international zoo breeding program.
Found only in the mountainous rain forests of northeastern New Guinea, Matschie’s Tree Kangaroos spend most of their time in the trees feeding on leaves, ferns, moss, and bark. Because the forests in which they live have been logged or converted to agriculture, these marsupials are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Zoo Miami has been a long time contributor to Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo conservation efforts in the wilds of New Guinea.
In a world first for conservation, Adelaide Zoo Keepers and Veterinarians saved the life of an orphaned Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo, by utilizing a surrogate wallaby mother. It’s a technique never attempted before with a Tree Kangaroo!
Photo Credits: Zoos SA
In November last year, zookeepers arrived early one morning to make a horrible discovery. Overnight, a falling branch had crushed the zoo’s three-year-old female Tree Kangaroo, orphaning a five-week-old joey.
Acting on pure adrenalin, zookeepers made the decision to try and save the tiny joey. Due to the young age of the joey, hand rearing was not possible, which meant the only option available was to try and ‘cross-foster’ the joey into the pouch of a surrogate wallaby mother.
‘Cross-fostering’, a special breeding technique that Adelaide Zoo began pioneering in the 1990s, involves the transfer of endangered joeys to the pouch of a surrogate mother of a different wallaby species. This accelerates the breeding cycle of the original wallaby, allowing the female to increase its reproduction rate up to six or eight times in some species. This means Adelaide Zoo can build the captive population of an endangered species much more quickly.
Adelaide Zoo Veterinarian, Dr. David McLelland, says cross fostering has never been attempted on a Tree Kangaroo until that fateful morning. “We’ve had great success over the years’ cross-fostering between wallaby species, but the specialized breeding technique has never been used on a Tree Kangaroo,” David said.
“Not only are tree kangaroos distant relatives of wallabies, they also have many behavioral and physical differences. We had no idea if the Yellow-Foot Rock-Wallaby would accept the Tree Kangaroo joey, but if we wanted to save the joey we had to try our luck.”
The cross-foster procedure, to get the Tree Kangaroo joey to latch on to the new teat, ran smoothly and an anxious couple of days followed as zoo keepers closely monitored the wallaby to determine if the attempt was successful.
Adelaide Zoo Team Leader of Natives, Gayl Males, says tiny ripples of movement over the following days confirmed the joey was alive and thriving, tucked carefully away in its surrogate mother’s pouch.
“We were so excited when we confirmed the joey had made it past the first critical 24 hour period. We were uncertain as to whether the joey was going to be accepted. This joey was completely different from other joeys in body shape and behavior. It certainly wriggled around more than a wallaby joey!” Gayl said.
“The joey, which we named Makaia, first popped its head out of the pouch around the end of January. It was certainly a sight to see a Tree Kangaroo joey, with its reddish-tan fur, bright blue eyes and long claws riding around in a wallaby!”
“He stayed with his wallaby mum for about three and half months until I took over caring for him and in effect became his third mum. He’s certainly a cheeky little fellow and loves running amok, testing the boundaries, using my home as his personal playground, climbing on everything, pulling toilet paper off the rolls, but he also loves quiet time cuddling with my husband in the evening while we watch TV.”
“He truly is a special little guy and I am so pleased that Adelaide Zoo has the staff and expertise to successfully perform this world first cross-foster. Makaia is the result of all our hard work; we can’t wait to share his amazing story with the world!”
Makaia spends the day at the zoo and goes home with Gayl over evenings and on her days off. He will continue to be cared for full-time until he no longer requires overnight feeds and will be weaned at around 15-18 months old.
Belfast Zoo is home to the only Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroos in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In fact, there are only 22 tree kangaroos in the whole of Europe and only six of this subspecies.
The newborns father ‘Hasu-Hasu’ and mother, ‘Jaya’, arrived at Belfast Zoo in 2013. Keepers first noticed movement in Jaya’s pouch on in early May 2014, but it was not until recent weeks that the joey’s head was spotted peaking out!
Zoo Curator, Andrew Hope, said “Like all marsupials, female tree kangaroos carry and nurse their young in their pouch. Keepers first noticed movement in the pouch back in May, but it is only recently that the joey has started to make an appearance. The joey will remain in Jaya’s pouch for several more months before starting to explore and, for this reason, it is not yet possible for keepers to determine the sex or the name of the latest arrival.”
As their name suggests, Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroos are tree-dwelling mammals, found in the mountainous rainforests of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. They can climb 15 to 20 feet up tree trunks and can leap more than 30 feet through the air from branch to branch!
Belfast Zoo manager, Mark Challis, said “Belfast Zoo is home to a number of extremely rare and endangered species and, while the team is always ecstatic when any of the animals successfully breed, we are particularly over the moon with the arrival of the tree kangaroo joey! Only 13 zoos internationally are home to Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroos, so the arrival of our joey is spectacular! The population of Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo has dramatically declined in the last 30 years due to the habitat destructions and hunting. Zoos have an important and active role to play in their conservation, and I am proud that Belfast is leading the way for Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo in the UK and Ireland.”
Australia’s Taronga Zoo is celebrating the successful birth of its first Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo joey in more than 20 years! The female joey was born in September, but keepers have only just begun seeing her tiny head peeking out from first-time mother Kwikila’s pouch.
Photo Credit: Sam Bennett
Like all marsupials, female Tree Kangaroos have a well-developed pouch in which they carry and nurse their young. The joey, which has not yet been named, will remain in Kwikila’s pouch for several more months. As she grows, the joey will start exploring the world, but mom’s pouch will remain a favorite retreat until she can no longer fit inside.
Tree Kangaroos are different than their ground-dwelling Kangaroo cousins in Australia. They have shorter hind legs and stronger forelimbs to maneuver in the treetops. The long tail provides balance when leaping from branch to branch.
Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroos are native to upland rain forests on the island of New Guinea. They feed on the tough, fibrous leaves of the silkwood tree. These leaves are digested by their specialized stomachs, which are similar to those of ruminants like cows.
Due to habitat loss and illegal hunting for their meat, Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroos are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Meet Kimberely and Anneli, two orphaned Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos in the care of Margit Cianelli, one of only two people licensed to rescue and rehabilitate this lesser known Australian species. Both joeys are thriving under Margit's expert care but have tough stories.
Kimberely (the larger one) was found in a water stream after falling from the trees. Some local aboriginals swimming nearby pulled her out (saving her life) and attempted to reconnect her with her mother in the trees above. The mother however, did not show interest in the joey and hence Margit was given the joey to hand raise. Margit suspects that the mother rejected Kimberley because she is an extremely active joey and she may have been too much to deal with. It’s possible she was a first time mother.
Anneli the smaller of the two was found near a farm area motionless under a water pump. Clearly she had been separated by her mother for days as she was suffering physically being weak, malnourished and dehydrated. She was very light and when taken to the vet she was discovered to be suffering from pneumonia, septicemia and multiple infections. She was placed on an IV drip for seven days and against the odds she recovered and has transformed into a healthy young joey.
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Margit has cared for over 15 Tree Kangaroos joeys in the past and is seen as a pioneer in Tree Kangaroo rehabilitation. She often has the joeys for over a year as preparing them for return to the wild is a long process. They need to be taught how to climb (this includes daily exercise in the climbing yard), they get taught what foods are safe to eat (the spaghetti is a treat), they also are nurtured and encouraged to be confident upon release.
Tree Kangaroos are a highly territorial species and finding unoccupied space can be challenging. Initially when released Margit will put radio collars on her roos and allow them to return until they have found their own territory to ensure they survive during their first few weeks in the wild.
Both Australian species of Tree Kangaroo, the Lumholtz and Bennett's, are currently under threat due to habitat fragmentation from human encroachment, car accidents and dogs whose territory they pass through while looking for new homes.
Photo and Video Credits: Adam Cox, Wakaleo / Creatura Channel
Staff at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle Washington are just now catching glimpses of one of their newest residents, a little Tree Kangaroo joey. Although the little critter was born way back in June, it immediately crawled up its mother's stomach and into her pouch where it has spent the past eight months growing and developing. The joey is now venturing out of its mother's pouch for periods of time to learn to forage and avoid predators. For now, the little one still comes back to the comfort of its mother's pouch every night or whenever it gets nervous. Soon the baby will leave its mother's pouch for good, venturing into the world on its own.
Tree Kangaroos, native of Papua New Guinea, are an endangered species. The Woodland Park Zoo is home to the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program which aims to both study and conserve Tree Kangaroos in the wild through habitat conservation as well as to breed the species in captivity. This rare birth is a success in the fight to preserve the species. The baby has yet to go on exhibit so it can grow in a quite environment, but it won't be long before visitors can catch a glimpse the newest addition Woodland Park Zoo Tree Kangaroo collection.