The Huon Tree Kangaroo
The Huon tree kangaroo is a highly agile kangaroo that is as much at home in the trees and on the ground. Learm more about this Australian marsupial.
With its stout, curved claws, broad paws and powerful limbs, the Huon tree kangaroo is a strong climber, capable of impressive leaps between trees and to the ground. Unlike the ground dwelling kangaroos, which have extra long hindlimbs, the Huon tree Kangaroo has limbs of equal length to help it climb.
His rich, honey brown coat is short but dense. The long furry tail is used as a balancing aid when jumping and as a brace to improve stability. His strong claws give a good grip for climbing and are the tree kangaroo’s main defensive weapon. Roughly equal in length, the limbs are more capable of independent movement than those of ground dwelling kangaroos. His large forward facing eyes give good binocular vision, vital for judging distances between branches. Tree kangaroos have furry inner ears. This helps keep parasites, such as ticks and leeches, out of the ears.
The island of New Guinea, home to the Huon tree kangaroo, is largely blanketed in lush, dense rainforest. Many forest mammals have adapted to a life in the trees; here they can find food, shelter and protection from predators. The tree kangaroo’s body is well adapted to an arboreal lifestyle. Stout hindlimbs can walk independently of each other; broad, padded paws have tough calluses; and long, curved claws serve as grappling hooks. On the forest floor, the tree kangaroo hops about on its hindlegs like a typical kangaroo but also walks on all fours. It is active mainly at night and sleeps by day in the branches of a tree. There, its thick fur offers protection against the elements.
The Huon tree kangaroo feeds on the ground and in the trees, and eats a variety of fruits and leaves. The tree kangaroo drops to all fours to nibble on berries from low growing shrubs. Forest leaves are tough, but, like other kangaroos, the tree kangaroo possesses a large, multichambered stomach to help digest the fibrous food. However, tree kangaroos seem to be less fussy feeders than their ground living relatives and the Huon species’ diet probably includes small invertebrates.
The tree kangaroo may breed at any time of the year, because food for nursing mothers and young is available all year in tropical forests. Competition between rival males can involve aggressive fights, but once two adults have paired up, they indulge in a gentle courtship ritual, pawing each other softly, before mating.
Tree kangaroos are marsupials, mammals that raise their young in a pouch. About 32 days after the mating, the female grooms her pouch in preparation for birth. Immediately after birth, the tiny, naked embryo must crawl up the outer body wall of the pouch to get to one of the four nipples inside. It clamps its mouth over one of these nipples, where it remains firmly attached for several months. The young kangaroo remains in the pouch until it is 10 or 11 months old. As soon as the young kangaroo leaves the pouch, the mother is once again ready to breed.
Tree kangaroos face an uncertain future, not least because their habitat has been under threat. Ultimately, overhunting may pose the greatest threat to the tree kangaroo’s survival.