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What is a Tree Kangaroo?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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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.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a All Things Nature contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon326131 — On Mar 20, 2013

Can anyone tell me: Can a Tree Kangaroo hurt a human?

By anon155890 — On Feb 24, 2011

can you please tell me why is the tree kangaroo endangered and who tries to help them?

By elizabeth23 — On Jan 09, 2011

While I don't know much about tree kangaroos, information that a once-endangered species has improved in numbers always makes me smile. If I ever visit Australia or New Guinea, I hope to see some of these in action.

By aaaCookie — On Jan 06, 2011

I once visited the city of Bratislava, Slovakia, and saw a restaurant that claimed to have "exotic" meats, including kangaroo meat. I did not venture inside, being a vegetarian and also rather disgusted, so I don't know if it was the real deal. To me, though, even joking about eating an endangered species is rather awful.

By afterall — On Jan 05, 2011

When people think about marsupials, especially in Australia, they tend to think of the larger types of kangaroo. But in addition to the tree kangaroo, there are many other similar but different species, like wallabies and wombats. Another thing all these species have in common is that many of them are, or have been, like the tree kangaroo, endangered.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a All Things Nature contributor, Tricia...
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