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Buergers'/Goodfellow's (Dendrolagus goodfellowi) and Matschie's (Dendrolagus matschiei) Tree Kangaroos Fact Sheet: Reproduction & Development

Courtship

  • Information from other species
    • Observations of courtship and mating limited - primarily from Australian tree kangaroos (Martin 2005)
      • Difficult to locate and observe tree kangaroos in dense rainforests of New Guinea
    • Bennett's tree kangaroo (D. bennetianus) - in wild (reviewed in Martin 2005)
      • Observed male sitting in trees with same or different females over series of nights
      • Mating not observed, but pouch young reported 2 months later
    • Lumholtz's tree kangaroo (D. lumholtzi) - most detailed study in captivity (Johnson & Delean 2003)
      • Male investigates females in estrus
        • Approaches female from front, sniffs pouch area
        • Moves to back, sniffs female's cloaca (urogenital opening)
      • Male rubs head, neck, and shoulders on female's cloaca
        • Head, neck, shoulders become covered in cloacal fluids
      • Male engages in mating
        • Male clasps female from behind with forelimbs around her chest
        • Female hindquarters raised, supports weight on her forepaws
        • Female makes soft trumpeting sound and shivering action of head and neck
      • Mating continues for 10-35 m, up to 3 times per day, over 1-3 days
      • Mating usually occurs on the ground
  • Matschie's tree kangaroo- observations in captivity (Heath et al. 1990)
    • Courtship
      • Female initiates - drops to ground, approaches male
      • Male engages in tongue-clicking and sniffing female's anogenital region
      • Initially, female growls, hisses, and/or swats at the male
    • Mating
      • If in estrus, female allows male to mount within 10 m
      • Male repeatedly mounts and engages in mating for up to 60 m

Reproduction

Timing of Breeding (Bush & Montali 1999; Flannery et al. 1996; Heath et al. 1990)

  • Estrous cycle
    • Polyestrous - may breed any time of year (Heath et al. 1990)
    • Tree kangaroos have estrus cycle lengths of 51-79 days (Bush & Montali 1999)
      • Buergers' tree kangaroo - about 54 days (Flannery et al. 1996)
      • Matschie's tree kangaroo - 59 days (North 2008)
        • Measured by reproductive hormone levels in feces
  • No embryonic diapause (Heath et al. 1990; Flannery et al. 1996; Johnson & Delean 2003)
    • Post-partum estrus and embryonic diapause (delayed development) not observed in tree kangaroos
      • Common in ground-dwelling kangaroos and wallabies

Gestation and Birth

  • Gestation period
    • Buergers' tree kangaroo - 44 d (Heath et al. 1990)
    • Matschie's tree kangaroo - 45 d (Kingston 1994 as cited by Flannery et al. 1996)
    • Tree kangaroos have longest gestation period of any marsupial (Martin 2005)
        • Reason unknown
        • Next closest: gray kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) at 38 d

Life Stages

  • Birth (Flannery et al. 1996; Heath et al. 1990; Thompson 2000)
    • Litter size: normally 1
      • Twin D. g. buergersi documented at San Diego Zoo
    • Weight at birth: undetermined
    • Female assumes birth posture - sits on large horizontal branch with tail between hindlimbs, weight on base of tail
    • Young crawls from birth canal into pouch (takes about 2 min), attaches to 1 of 4 teats
    • After birth, mother cleans pouch thoroughly with tongue
  • Infant - Pouch Life (Flannery et al. 1996; Heath et al. 1990; Thompson 2000)
    • Buergers' tree kangaroo
      • First out of pouch - 28-31 wk (7-8 mo)
      • Permanently out of pouch - 39 wk (10 mo)
    • Matschie's tree kangaroo
      • Attached to nipple - about 100 d (3 mo)
      • Head out of pouch - about 22 wk (6 mo)
      • First out of pouch - about 28 wk (7 mo)
      • Permanently out of pouch - about 41 wk (10 mo)
  • Subadult
    • Weaning age (both species): about 12 months (Wilson and Mittermeier 2015)
      • Follow mother "at foot" for 2-3 mo after permanently leaving pouch
  • Adult (Flannery et al. 1996; Thompson 2000)
    • Buergers' tree kangaroo
      • Age of sexual maturity - about 2 years
    • Matschie's tree kangaroo
      • Age of sexual maturity - around 2-2.5 y old in captivity
      • A female may give birth to 10-12 young over her lifetime

Longevity

(Moeller 1990; Thompson 2000)

  • In the wild
    • Buergers' tree kangaroo - 6-8 years
    • Matschie's tree kangaroo - 5-8 years
  • In captivity
    • Buergers'/Goodfellow's tree kangaroo - up to 20-25 years (ZIMS 2018)
    • Matschie's tree kangaroo - about 14-15 years; exceptional individuals may live longer (ZIMS 2018)

Mortality and Health

(Martin 2005)

  • Common threats to tree kangaroos in New Guinea
    • Predation
      • Humans are primary predator
        • Humans use hunting dogs - most tree kangaroos killed by dogs running them down
        • Over-hunting has caused decline or extinction of many tree kangaroo populations
      • Pythons - most too small in New Guinea to threaten tree kangaroos
        • Boelen's python (Morelia boeleni) inhabits montane rainforests above 1,000 m (3,300 ft) and is large enough to take a juvenile tree kangaroo
        • Unconfirmed reports from hunters in Toricelli Mountains that a large python takes tree kangaroos
    • Falling out of trees
      • Particularly a problem for young tree kangaroos
    • Habitat fragmentation and habitat loss

Mother and Joey

Tree Kangaroo and joey

After birth, tree kangaroo joeys spend about 7 months growing and developing, before first emerging from their mother's pouch.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Bush & Montali (1999)
Flannery et al. (1996)
Heath et al. (1990)
Johnson & Delean (2003)
Kingston (1994)
Martin (2005)
Moeller (1990)
North (2008)
Thompson (2000)
ZIMS (2018)

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