New tree kangaroo joey perfectly demonstrates ‘staying at home’

Our tree kangaroo joey has emerged from its mother’s pouch for the first time.

Keepers spotted the tiny marsupial popping its head out of mum Kitawa’s pouch and managed to catch the rare moment on camera.

But, like us, the joey will be staying home for a while yet and is not expected to venture out of its mother’s pouch until mid-May.

The birth of the tiny Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo is a huge boost for the captive breeding programme for this Endangered species.

It is the first time we have bred the species and is one of only two tree kangaroo joeys to have been bred successfully in captivity in the UK during the past 12 months.

The young joey is also genetically important as his dad, Mian, joined us from Perth in Australia, so he and the youngster bring new genes for the European breeding programme for the species.

The youngster has yet to be named but keepers believe it is a male. It was born six months ago when, as a tiny embryo, it made its way up the outside of Kitawa’s pouch and nestled inside.

Keepers trained Kitawa to allow them to insert a borescope, which is a lens on the end of a flexible tube, into her pouch to check on the joey’s development.

Over the following months, the tiny hairless embryo developed into a smaller version of its parents, and now has the beginnings of two golden stripes down its back – characteristic of the species.

Mammal Team Leader, Alan Toyne, said: “Mum and joey are looking very content and the baby is healthy and strong. He has changed so much since we last saw him in the pouch, hairless and tiny.

“His ears have not yet started sticking up but the lovely colouring on his fur is starting to emerge. We are all looking forward to watching him grow and develop in confidence and independence.”

Alan added: “Tree kangaroos have an incredible sense of smell and he is already showing interest in Kitawa’s food – sniffing at it curiously. We expect him to start eating solid food in early June but won’t be fully weaned until the end of the year.”

Once out of the pouch, the joey will return to its mum’s pouch regularly, until it is eventually so big that it can only put its head inside the pouch to feed.

Tree kangaroos are found in the tropical rainforests of Papua New Guinea, where they have adapted to life in the trees. They can bound as far as nine metres to a neighbouring tree and can leap down to the group from as high as 18 metres.

But many of the areas where they used to live have been lost to logging or timber production or used to grow wheat, rice and coffee plants. This loss of habitat can also leave tree kangaroos prey to domestic dogs.

They are also at risk of the expansion of non-sustainable palm oil plantations, which converts forests into plantations to produce palm oil.

We have recently launched an appeal to ensure the future of our work saving wildlife. Its aim is to safeguard Bristol Zoo Gardens, Wild Place Project and our conservation projects in 10 countries across the world. This is following the temporary closure of both our sites in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Find out more, or make a donation here.

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