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


  • In the wild
    • Browsing herbivores (George 1982)
    • Eat large variety of plants on ground and in trees (much more variety than in captivity)
      • 1998 study identified 160 plant species eaten by Buergers', Matschie's, and Doria's tree kangaroos at 2 sites in Huon Peninsula and Eastern Highlands (Dabek & Betz 1998 as cited in Martin 2005)
        • Partial to ferns
          • Aspleniaceae, Blechnaceae, Cyatheaceae, Dryopteridaceae, Marratia, Polypodiaceae families
          • Marratia species (large terrestrial ferns) identified by hunters as a common food plant
        • Also commonly eat:
          • Impatiens hawkeri
          • Climbing pandans (Freycinetia species)
          • Gingers (Zingiberaceae family)
          • Vines and shrubs (Rubrus species)
          • Trees (Timonius species)
        • Matschie's tree kangaroos eat stems and young leaves of epiphytic orchids
      • Food preferences of Buergers' tree kangaroos on Mt Karimui (Hide et al. 1984 as cited in Flannery 1995):
        • Leaves and roots of Poikilospermum amboinse
        • Leaves and fruit of Mussaenda ferruginea
        • Fruit of Ficus species (wild figs)
  • In captivity
    • Buergers' and Matschie's tree kangaroos eat mixture of food types in captivity (Flannery et al. 1996)
      • Example - Buergers' tree kangaroo diet, San Diego Zoo (Edwards & Ward 1998)
        • High-fiber primate biscuit
        • Lower-fiber alfalfa-based herbivore pellet
        • Rotation of vegetables, including leafy green and root vegetables
        • Browse
      • Detailed information - see Tree Kangaroo Nutrition Husbandry Manual (Edwards & Ward 1998)
    • Meat-eating - only observed in captivity (Flannery et al. 1996)
      • Eggs and chicks fed to tree kangaroos at Melbourne Zoo
      • Buergers' tree kangaroo - reported to eat chickens, head-first
      • Matschie's tree kangaroo - hunting and partial consumption of pigeon

Nutrition and Metabolism

(Edwards 2001; Flannery et al 1996; Hume 1999; Travis et al. 2012)

  • Vitamins
    • Vitamin E deficiencies in captive tree kangaroos can lead to white muscle disease and death
      • Wild tree kangaroos in Papua New Guinea had significantly higher values for vitamin E than captive individuals in 1 study (Travis et al. 2012)
      • Ideal level not determined
  • Metabolic rate
    • Low basal metabolic rate (BMR) for a marsupial (measured in Matschie's tree kangaroo) (Hume 1999)

Gripping Leaves

Tree kangaroo eating

A Matschie's tree kangaroo dines on fresh leaves.

The dextrous paws of the tree kangaroo not only help with climbing into the tree tops—they help them select and tear leaves.

Image credit: © User RedGazelle15; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license via Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.

Image note: This is a cropped image.

Page Citations

Dabek & Betz (1998)
Edwards & Ward (1998)
Flannery et al. (1996)
George (1982)
Hide et al. (1984)
Martin (2005)

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