Rare Tree Kangaroo in New Guinea Was Just Seen For the First Time in 90 Years

A different species of tree kangaroo
A different species of tree kangaroo / iStock.com/CraigRJD

In the lowlands and rainforests of New Guinea, Indonesia, and parts of Northern Australia lives a genus of strange creatures called tree kangaroos. If you can imagine what the offspring of an ordinary kangaroo and lemur would look like, then you’ll have some idea of a tree kangaroo’s physique.

As Smithsonian reports, a single Wondiwoi tree kangaroo—a species native to the Wondiwoi Mountains in West Papua, New Guinea—was recently spotted for the first time in 90 years. The last time the species was seen was in 1928, when biologist Ernst Mayr thought he had stumbled upon a monkey-bear hybrid.

This time, amateur botanist Michael Smith had a chance encounter with the creature while exploring the Wondiwoi Mountains. His photos of the animal perched on a tree branch were recently published in National Geographic and other outlets.

Tree kangaroos have impressive proportions. As the largest tree-living marsupial in New Guinea, they have a built-in tool to help them get to an elevated plane. “They have great big claws to help them shin up trees, and also for defense, although they are not terribly agile,” Smith told the UK-based Alton Post Gazette. “We also smel[led] the scent marks—quite foxy—and saw what the hunter identified as scat: kangaroo poo.”

Smith plans to submit samples of the animal’s droppings for further research so that they can be compared with the animal that Mayr saw back in 1928. Because poaching and deforestation threaten the species, it’s feared that the animal could be extinct within a few years.

[h/t Smithsonian]