Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo – Beautiful, Endangered…and Talented
By Susana Cortázar
Matschie’s tree kangaroos are solitary animals, and the strongest bond is between mother and offspring, although sometimes a mother, father, and offspring will form a family.
Arboreal, they live in mountainous rainforests at high elevations and remain in trees most of their lives. In the wild, they eat leaves, insects, flowers, bark, moss, and nuts. They rest about 20 hours a day while digesting their food.
When mating, the female approaches the male on the ground. They touch each other’s nose and make a clicking sound with their tongue. There is an initial bit of courting aggression before the female allows the male to mount her – usually after about 10 minutes. Copulation may last up to one hour. Gestation is approximately 44 days – the longest of any marsupials’. “Joeys nurse for about 28 weeks and at 18 months, they leave the pouch to establish their own range. In the wild, tree kangaroos have a lifespan of 14 years as opposed to an average of nearly 20 years in captivity,” says Zoo Miami Curator of Mammals Conrad Schmitt.
And what are some of the reasons for their being placed on the endangered list? The main ones are habitat destruction and hunting by humans. However, there are many efforts and organizations, such as the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Project based out o the Woodland Park Zoo in
Matthew states each kangaroo has a distinct personality. “Patty is very prissy, and possessive. Banyon, the youngest, is like a little kid, very social, mischievous, and active.
Matthew getting ready to feed the kangaroos
Their diet is prepared daily in Zoo Miami’s kitchen, and it consists of carrots, sweet potato, kale, apple, leaf-eater biscuits, and celery. Calcium is sprinkled on the food on a regular basis to ensure they are getting enough, tea leaves are added to help with their beautiful coat color, and they also occasionally get oats and a hard-boiled egg for protein. They are fed once a day and get a treat or browse as well.
Since they are usually up in trees and branches in their exhibits, they need their exercise. What do they do to keep in shape? “They are allowed access to the hall and to each others adjacent rooms to socialize; we hide peanuts and alfalfa in boxes and they have to walk around in order to find the boxes and get their treat. We also offer other enrichment such as olfactory, tactile, visual and auditory. This keeps them active, enriched, and nimble,” says Matthew.
Our Matschie’s tree kangaroos came from other zoos and Patty gave birth to a joey, P.J., 12 years ago. He is at another zoo.
Matthew, a zookeeper for four years, has worked at Zoo Miami for nine years, carrying out various duties in order to work his way up to become the keeper he is so proud of being today. Asked why he wanted to become a keeper, he said that not only is his intense love of animals a factor, but he always wanted “to impart that love, knowledge and experience to people who might never have the opportunity to see these animals up close and learn about them.” He loves working with the vets and learning about the various treatments and techniques of veterinary medicine, the whole on site learning experience. These are the favorite aspects of his job. His least favorite? Working outdoors “in the sun, heat and humidity.” Matthew, we feel your pain.
Matthew says that in order to be a good keeper, “you must have a healthy knowledge of the species you are working with and their behavior, try to gain a good working rapport with the animals, respect them and their power, and always be alert and on your toes.”
Matthew, any last thoughts? “My job provides an amazing experience every day. I get to do what so many would love to but can’t. And to be able to take care of something – animals – that may not be around forever (unless together we make a change and protect our wildlife and continue conservation efforts) is an honor.” Well said, Matthew.