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Simpson Street Free Press

Tree Kangaroos Face Extinction as Habitats Disappear

Tree kangaroos are an endangered species that are often unheard of or overlooked. Their role in ecosystems and indigenous cultures and diets are threatened by habitat loss.

There are 12 species, two are found in Australia and the rest are mostly found on the island of New Guinea. Scientists estimate that there are less than 2,500 tree kangaroos in the world.

The Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program partnered with National Geographic Society to protect the tree kangaroos by using critter cams to observe how they act in the wild. Researchers captured kangaroos and placed collars that have small cameras in them. The footage records their behavior and diet. After placing the collars, researchers release them back into their natural habitat.

These creatures live high up in mountain forests, at elevations between 4,000 and 11,000 feet. Both adult males and females weigh 15 to 20 pounds and are about 37 to 70 inches tall. They usually spend most of their time in trees. They can jump from heights of more than 50 feet to the forest floor without injuring themselves. Along with their agile climbing skills, these animals have long thick tails that span 17 to 36 inches. The tail helps the tree kangaroos balance on tree tops, but can also get in the way of their climbing.

The tree kangaroos eat leaves, ferns, moss, tree bark, and even some flowers. In captivity they eat vegetables, dandelions, and hard boiled eggs.

The average lifespan of a tree kangaroo is unknown as they are very difficult to study in the wild, but the oldest one known lived up to 27 years in captivity. Males mate with many females in the wild. When a joey, or baby kangaroo, is born, they are underdeveloped so they crawl back into the mother’s pouch and stay there for ten months. Afterwards, joeys leave the pouch but they will return to rest. After 18 months old, they will become independent and leave their mother.

Habitat loss caused by logging and mining has severely restricted tree kangaroos' ability to climb trees. This in turn harmed indigenous communities that rely on them for food.

Further actions to tackle climate change and habit loss must be taken in order to ensure the survival of these creatures for future generations and communities that rely on them.

[Source: Woodland Park Zoo]

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