A tree kangaroo is one of the largest marsupials, and is closely related to both the wallaby and the larger kangaroo. Unlike its two close relatives, however, the tree kangaroo at some point adapted to becoming an arboreal, or tree living, species. There are over 10 species of tree kangaroo, some living in the rainforests of Australia, and others living in Papua New Guinea, and the islands surrounding New Guinea. The tree kangaroo prefers dense forest growth, as it is a solitary and shy creature.
Like its relatives, the tree kangaroo is an impressive jumper, though its feet are not as large. It can, however, jump from tree to tree with ease. Jumps down from one tree to another have been measured at an impressive 30 feet (9.14 m) in length. They can also spring up high into trees. They are adept climbers with very long tails that help them to expertly balance. Some tree kangaroos can be more easily found at night, as they occasionally exhibit nocturnal behavior.
The tree kangaroo species vary in size but most are approximately 50 inches (1.27 m) tall, and adult males weigh approximately 25 pounds (11.33 kg). Females may weigh about 5 pounds less than the males. They have an average life span in the wild of approximately 14 years. In captivity, the tree kangaroo can live to be about 20.
Like all marsupials, the tree kangaroo has a pouch. Tiny babies are born individually after about a month-long gestation period. It takes a little over a year before the babies will be ready to live outside the pouch. The female tree kangaroo tends to live with a single male, and will usually be caring for her current child in the pouch. Once that child has reached adulthood, the tree kangaroo and her mate will produce another child.
Tree kangaroos are herbivorous, and their diet consists of the leaves abundantly available in their dense forest habitats. They are also ruminants, which means they digest their food partially then re-chew it in the form of a cud. It is very unusual for an animal without hooves to have ruminant characteristics.
Many tree kangaroos are considered either threatened or endangered because of habitat destruction due to logging. Some hope exists for the tree kangaroo with vigorous conservation efforts. A 2005 expedition to an island of New Guinea discovered a cache of Golden Mantled Tree Kangaroos, which were thought previously to be extremely endangered. That a healthy population of this tree kangaroo could still exist is encouraging and inspiring to wildlife conservationists and animal lovers alike.