Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance logo
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library logo

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 Wildlife Alliance. 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)

SDZWA Library Links