One of the six species of Tree-kangaroo found in Papua New Guinea. Surprisingly, more species are found here than in Australia, a continent that only supports two of these extraordinary marsupial mammals.
Photo: Chris Johnson
July 6, 2001
While in port, we have been fortunate enough to explore some of the last remaining tracts of pristine, undisturbed rainforest habitat left on the planet. We have had the opportunity to observe species of terrestrial mammals that continue to flourish within scarcely disturbed ecological communities.
There are one hundred and eighty known species of mammals in Papua New Guinea. These include marine as well as terrestrial mammals, such as bats and rats. Also there are approximately sixty species of marsupial mammals, including the Tree-kangaroo. Marsupials bare very immature young, which are nursed in a pouch located on the abdomen of the female.
Although Europeans first became aware of Papua New Guineas existence as far back as 1526, the first comprehensive account of the mammals that call this extraordinary island home, was in a field guide first published in 1990 by Tim Flannery, the director of the South Australian Museum. The rapid pace at which our knowledge and awareness of the land mammals of Papua New Guinea is increasing is demonstrated by the fact that in the last ten years, the number of indigenous terrestrial mammals described, increased from 187 to 212 animals. This is partly due to a revision in classifications, but many are completely new species.
Amazingly, a comparatively large black and white Tree-kangaroo, the Dingiso, remained unknown to the outside world. It was discovered and first described in 1990 by Tim Flannery, when he collected a traditional headdress made from a piece of furred skin that he did not recognize.
The long tailed Tree-kangaroos of Papua New Guinea are arboreal adapted relatives of the terrestrial species so well known in Australia, where only two species occur in the rainforests to the north. Tree-kangaroos are among the largest mammals to be found here and are considered 'big game' by the local hunters. As a result, the six species that inhabit the island are exceedingly shy. In addition, these timid animals are nocturnal meaning they are active only at night, so to see one in the trees is not only thrilling but also a rare sight.
This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the Odyssey in Madang.
Log by Genevieve Johnson