Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo
& D Frith
Australia's Wet Tropics
Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo: Dendrolagus lumholtzi
- This is the smallest of all tree-kangaroos, adults
weighing just over half as much as Bennett's tree-kangaroos. (Source:
Environmental Protection Agency)
- Tree Kangaroo movement is unusual for macropods in the
fact that they walk rather than hop.
- Blackish- brown, sprinkled with lighter coloured fur on the lower part of their
- Lighter coloured band across forehead and down each side of the face.
- Long forearms which are heavily muscled and hind feet are short and broad.
- Tail is long with the terminal half blackish brown, used for counterbalance in
- Common in distribution.
- It is a nocturnal animal, thus, its days are spent asleep in a crouched sitting
posture in the crown of a tree or branch.
- It occupies upland forests between Ingham and the
Carbine Tableland, where the territory of Bennett's tree-kangaroo takes
over. (Source: Environmental Protection Agency)
- The Lumholtzs Tree Kangaroo is predominantly a leaf eater, known to feed on
the leaves of the Silkwood as well as fruit and maize from farms on the rainforest edge.
- Although densities may approach 1 per hectare in some
places, these animals are essentially solitary, males fighting to the
death if enclosed together. (Source: Environmental Protection Agency)
- Feeding aggregations of up to four have been found.
- Can also be viewed, with a spotlight, at the Crater National Park, on the Malanda
falls Environmental Park walking paths, The Curtain Fig Tree and along the roadway on
- About one-sixth of the entire kangaroo family is made up of 10 tree-kangaroo
species. It is now believed that because of anatomical similarities, they evolved from
rock wallabies at least 5 million years ago. (Pademelons are also closely related.)
- The evolution of tree-kangaroos was a reversal of some of the major trends in all
macropod evolution. It is unknown why all types of kangaroos descended from arboreal
ancestors and adapted to terrestrial life, and why the tree-kangaroos later returned to
- The tree-kangaroos had to adapt considerably to live in trees. They regained
their ability to walk, have proportionally much bigger and stronger forelimbs than those
of terrestrial kangaroos, have long curved claws on their front and hind feet, have teeth
redeveloped for shearing as opposed to grinding, have short and broad hind feet to improve
grip (larger surface area), and have a tail used for balance.
- Fossils of a giant tree-kangaroo, the size of a mature red kangaroo, have been
found in New South Wales. They are at least 50,000 years old.
- Only 2 species of tree-kangaroos are found in Australia Lumholtzs
and Bennetts and both are restricted to the Wet Tropics. Several other species
are found in New Guinea.
- The 8 species found in New Guinea are divided into 17 subspecies. This diversity
may be due to the preference by some species for isolated mountain tops which, combined
with New Guineas active geology which has caused mountains to grow rapidly, has cut
populations off and allowed them to develop differently.
- Research suggests Lumholtzs tree-kangaroos prefer forests growing on the
Tablelands rich basalt soils. As this is also the best soil for farming, much of the
tree-kangaroos habitat has been cleared for farms. They have fortunately been able
to survive in the strips along creeks and in areas that are too rocky for farming.
However, they mostly live on private land, which is unprotected by World Heritage and
National Parks status.
- Lumholtzs Tree-kangaroo has a big sacculated stomach that allows large
quantities of leaves to be ingested. It is primarily a leaf eater (but leaves have a low
nutrient value). The full range of its diet has not been determined.
- It sits crouched in the crown of a tree or on a branch sleeping during the day.
There is a noticeable parting of the fur behind the shoulders as they sit, which is
possibly a device to channel water forwards and backwards in case it rains while they are
- As with other kangaroos, the fur is groomed with the syndactylous toes of the
hind feet, the strong claws of the fore feet, and the tongue.
- The tree-kangaroo may appear clumsy, but it is an efficient climber. It grips a
branch with its long forelimbs and walks (or runs slowly) forwards or backwards with
alternate movements of its shorter hind feet. On broader, roughly horizontal branches, the
tree-kangaroo may move in the typical kangaroo hopping motion. Its tail serves as a
- It travels tail-first down a tree, holding the trunk with its forelimbs,
alternately moving each one down the tree while the soles of its hind feet slide against
the bark until it is about 2m above the ground. Then, kicking off from the trunk, it
twists in mid-air to land upright. Some animals have been recorded to jump from a tree to
the ground from 20m without sustaining any injury, but others have jumped from lower trees
and been internally harmed.
- Movement on the ground is by a quadrupedal walk or run or a bipedal hop.
- There does not appear to be a definite breeding season. Only one young is raised
at a time. They attach to the one teat (of 4) that has become enlarged prior to birth.
- When investigating a receptive female, the male utters a soft clucking sound and
softly paws her head and shoulders. Then he follows if she moves away, pawing the base of
- They are not a very active animal. Research has calculated that only 10 percent
of the average Lumholtzs tree-kangaroos time is spent actively feeding,
grooming, moving, and so on.
- Males and females are similar in colour, but males are noticeably larger.
- In captivity, they have lived until late teenage years.
- Extensive clearing of lowland rainforest greatly reduced the range of
Lumholtzs Tree-kangaroo. Highland forest logging is further reducing the range, but
it is present in reasonable numbers in several national parks and reserves.
- As a result of the growing concern for the tree-kangaroos future, the Tree
Kangaroo and Mammal Group was formed. The Group meets at 7.30pm every first Thursday of
the month at the Malanda Hotel. Annual membership is $10.
- The Tree Kangaroo and Mammal Group is happy to have received a Natural Heritage
Trust grant to examine different rainforest fragments as possible Tree-kangaroo habitat.
- The tree-kangaroos scientific name Dendrolagus means tree
hare. They are a traditional food for Indigenous Australians and people from New
When on the ground, they are vulnerable not only to dogs, but also to vehicles.
Of 27 dead tree-kangaroos examined in the Atherton Tablelands from 1992 to 1994, 11 had
been hit by cars, six had been killed by dogs, four by parasites and the others by other
Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo: Conserving A Rare
Marsupials In The Mist,
Declining Mountain Top Refuge