Papuan Tree Kangaroo Made Its Appearance in West Papuan Jungle after 90 Years of Hiding

Almost a century, Wondiwoi tree kangaroos disappears from the wild and many think this species is extinct. Not long ago, he came out of hiding and for the first time its form was captured.

The first and last tree kangaroo was seen in 1928 by the evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr. He saw it in the Wondiwoi mountains, West Papua. Mayr shot the only specimen known so far and sent it to Natural History in London. In 1933, this species was identified as Dendrolagus Mayri. Since that incident, local residents had never reported the presence of these species.

Curiosity about the disappearance of a tree kangaroo made Michael Smith an amateur botanist from England leading an expedition through the dense bamboo forest in the Wondiwoi Mountains, West Papua, Indonesia.

The man from Farnham, England planned an expedition after hearing about mysterious animals while exploring the mountains of West Papua in 2017. With the help of four Papuan porters, a local hunter who acted as guide and Norman Terok, students at the University of Papua in Manokwari, the expedition began on July 23.

A week later this group reported their findings. When found, this monkey-like kangaroo is perched on a tree. Frustrated, Smith immediately took a picture of the Wondiwoi kangaroo for the first time. Before being published, Smith sought input from tree kangaroo experts including Mark Eldridge, a marsupial biologist at the Australian Museum in Sydney and Roger Martin from James Cook University.

“This is one of the most unknown mammals in the world. The species is still there, it’s amazing. The mountains are remote and difficult to access,” said Eldridge who was not involved in the expedition.

Tree Kangaroos are tropical marsupials that are close relatives of kangaroos and wallabies which live on land. Tree Kangaroo has forearm muscles to pull its body to the trunk and move around the branches by climbing and jumping.

He was found in a forest full of bamboo shrubs at an altitude of 1,500-1,700 meters. At this height, the expedition team began a distinctive stroke on the trunk left by tree kangaroos, occasionally their feces.

“We can also smell the kangaroos left behind,” Smith said.

But the difficulty faced by the expedition team was to find their physical realities. Although the weight of tree kangaroos reaches 16 kilograms, they are hard to find and covered in dense forests. A time-consuming and tiring search almost made the team desperate. Luckily, on the last day the team saw a kangaroo from a distance of 30 meters.

“After trying to find a way to take pictures, I finally got the right moment to capture the kangaroo who was peeking from behind the leaves,” Smith said.

Team Flannery, from the University of Melbourne Australia, revealed that the findings were a major breakthrough. “The pictures are clear and show typical feather colors,” said the team.

The number of tree kangaroos in Papua is decreasing due to over hunting, logging, oil palm plantations, and also mining. Luckily the Wondiwoi tree kangaroos lives in dense bamboo forests that are difficult to reach. Before finding it, Smith’s team had to cut the line. For now they are saved from various threats. The priority that needs to be done now is to collect feces or pieces of tissue of this creature to extract DNA and compare it with the DNA of the species found in 1928.


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