Seris Tree-kangaroo (Flannery et al, 1996: 122-123)




Seri's Tree-kangaroo

Dendrolagus dorianus stellarum
(Flannery and Seri, 1990)

His thick head and little eyes gave Lau -- as lie is popularly called -- a decidedly stupid appearance. The animal was sent by helicopter to Mabilabol where it was accommodated in a fine kennel, to the great delight of the Sibillers, who repeatedly came to see it out of curiosity; tree-kangaroos are unknown in their district ...

-- L.D. Brongersma and G.F. Venema, describing a young animal they encountered on their ascent of Mt Antares in the Star Mountains, 1959.

I HAD THE good fortune to be present when the holotype of this beautiful tree-kangaroo was collected. Freddy, a good friend from Bultem Village in the Star Mountains, and Serapnok, clown and endless source of entertainment, had gone hunting in the morning with their dogs. By early afternoon they had returned to our small camp at Dokfuma, a patch of subalpine grassland perched high in the Star Mountains, laden down with a dead adult female tree-kangaroo, accompanied by its still-living young. Lester Seri and I set about skinning the adult and, as we were all hungry, began preparing the meat for our evening meal. Harold Logger, member of the International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature and a great aficionado of offal, consumed the holotypic liver and kidneys.

Seri's Tree-kangaroo is one of the most attractive members of the Doria's complex. Very young animals have a bright yellow tail and a very dark body, but as they age the tail darkens and the distinctive silvery tipping develops on the limbs. The heavily silver-frosted coat colour of adults blends extraordinarily well with the epiphytic mosses and lichens of the upper montane forest.

(Nothofagus brassi group) forest. It may be excluded from the more stunted, mossy scrubs around the margin of subalpine grassland by the presence of Dingiso (Dendrolagus mbaiso). In Papua New Guinea, where Dingiso is absent, it inhabits similar low, stunted vegetation growing in subalpine meadows.

Its elevational distribution is rather different from that of the other members of its species, for it descends no lower than about 2600 metres. Below this point, the forest becomes less mossy and more diverse. Exactly why it is restricted to such high elevations, when the closely related Ifola (Dendrolagus dorianus notatus) descends much lower, is unclear. It may be that it is particularly vulnerable to hunting, and thus is absent from the more accessible lower slopes where human population density is greater.

Almost nothing is known of its reproduction, diet and social structure, although all of the individuals collected thus far have been solitary or, if female, accompanied only by their young.

It is occasionally seen crossing the Timika-Tembagapura road in Irian Jaya. Hunters are prohibited from entering many areas around the mine and township (for example, where heavy machinery operates), and in such places it seems to remain reasonably common.


page 122 - 123

Extracts from Tree Kangaroos: A Curious Natural History, Melbourne: Reed Books Australia.
© Copyright by Timothy Fridtjof Flannery, Roger Martin, Alexandra Szalay. Illustrations Copyright by Peter Schouten, 1996.
HTML version produced with permission for Papuaweb, 2004.