Lumholtzs Tree-kangaroo (Flannery et al, 1996: 96-97)




Lumholtz's Tree-kangaroo

Dendrolagus lumholtzi
(Collett, 1884)

According to the statement of the blacks, it was a kangaroo which lived in the highest trees on the summit of the Coast Mountains. It had a very long tail, and was as large as a medium-sized dog, climbed the trees in the same manner as the natives themselves, and was called boongary. I was sure that it could be none other than a tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus). Tree-kangaroos were known to exist in New Guinea, but none had yet been found on the Australian continent ...

-- Norwegian explorer Carl Lumholtz, on first hearing of the existence of tree-kangaroos in Queensland, 1882-3.

LUMHOLTZ's TREE-KANGAROO is very different from the other long-footed tree-kangaroos. It is the only species that is restricted to high-elevation mountain forests (above 800 metres) and is by far the smallest member of its group. Indeed, it is the smallest of all tree-kangaroos, with males averaging 7.2 kilograms and females only 5.9 kilograms in weight. In its small size and mountain habitat, it parallels many members of the short-footed group of New Guinea.

Lumholtz's Tree-kangaroo is by far the easiest of all tree-kangaroo species to observe in the wild. It is common in many of the small rainforest relics and nature reserves on the Atherton Tablelands, many of which are readily accessible to those wishing to spotlight mammals by night. (Indeed, guided tours are run for this purpose.) Furthermore, it seems to prefer forest margins and can thus sometimes be seen without venturing deep into the forest or even stepping from one's car. As with Bennett's Tree-kangaroo, its life history has recently been elucidated by an extensive field study.

Its beautiful cream underbelly contrasts with its black fore and hindfeet when seen from below. Its back is grey with blackish tips, and the face in adults has a distinct pale forehead band. This is lacking in juveniles and may denote an individual's age, thus eliciting an appropriate response from adults.

According to one extensive study, it spends over 99 per cent of its time in the treetops. s Like Bennett's Tree-kangaroo, it subsists almost solely on leaves and is largely solitary and nocturnal. Males defend a home range of approximately four hectares, which overlaps with that of several females. These usually defend home ranges of about two hectares each. The size of its territories is much smaller than those of Bennett's Tree-kangaroo. This means that it can live at much higher densities.

Despite its small size, reproduction is relatively slow, with pouch life lasting about eight months. Young can accompany their mothers until they are well over two years old.

As Carl Lumholtz's pioneering nineteenth-century studies make clear, hunting by Aborigines had resulted in its distribution being restricted to a few of the most rugged parts of the Atherton Tablelands. Its distribution has since expanded, and it is now common in rainforests on gentle slopes and flat areas where, just a century before, it was rare or absent. Its preference for forest edges and regrowth may account for its ability to persist in rainforest relics as little as 20 hectares in size. These characteristics, along with its small home range and the fact that 25 per cent of its distribution is protected within national parks, means that its future is relatively secure.


page 96 - 97

Information reproduced 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.