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40 Facts About Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroos: Unusual Marsupials

A  Lumholtz's tree kangaroo or boongary in a wildlife park

A Lumholtz's tree kangaroo or boongary in a wildlife park

A Kangaroo That Lives in Trees

The idea of kangaroos climbing and living in trees may sound very strange to some people and perhaps even fictional. Tree kangaroos are real animals, however. They belong to the same biological family as “normal” kangaroos, wallaroos, wallabies, and pademelons. They live in northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia. The Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo lives only in a small area of northern Queensland in Australia. It's also known as the boongary and is the smallest tree kangaroo.

Tree kangaroos (or tree-kangaroos) belong to the family Macropodidae and the genus Dendrolagus. Fourteen species exist, though scientists disagree about how a few of them should be classified. The scientific name of the Lumholtz's tree kangaroo is Dendrolagus lumholtzi. Like the other members of its family, it's a marsupial. It has a long tail and a brown or grey body that has a darker face, paws, and feet. The animal has some interesting features in addition to being able to climb trees. In this article, I list forty facts about the animal that you may not know.

Kangaroos, wallaroos, wallabies, and pademelons have a typical kangaroo appearance but different sizes. The kangaroo is the biggest animal in the group and the pademelon is the smallest. The animals belong to the class Mammalia, the infraclass Marsupialia (sometimes called the Metatheria), and the family Macropodidae.

Introduction to the Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo

1. The Lumholtz's tree kangaroo is named after a Norwegian explorer, naturalist, and anthropologist named Carl Sofus Lumholtz (1851–1922).

2. Lumholtz spent four years in Queensland, Australia's second-largest state. He got to know the indigenous people in the area and also studied the local wildlife. In 1883, he discovered the animal that is today named in his honour. (As always, when someone from another country or area "discovers" a species, it may already be known by the local people.)

3. Though it has a bulky body, the Lumholtz's tree kangaroo is actually the smallest species in the genus Dendrolagus.

4. The genus name of tree kangaroos is derived from two Greek words: dendron, which means tree, and lagos, which means hare. The World Wildlife Fund reference shown at the end of this article describes the animals as looking like a cross between a kangaroo and a lemur.

5. According to various reports, the Lumholtz's tree kangaroo is active during the day (diurnal), the night (nocturnal), or dusk and dawn (crepuscular). The actual situation may depend on the local environment.

6. As another of the references listed below says, the most accurate term for describing the animal's activity is probably cathemeral. This term means that the animal is intermittently active throughout a twenty-four hour period.

The only other species of tree kangaroo living in Australia is the Bennett's tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus bennettianus). It lives in a small area in Queensland to the north of the the habitat where Dendrolagus lumholtzi is found.

Boongary: borrowed from Warrgamay (Australian Aboriginal language of the lower Herbert River, Queensland) bulŋgari

— Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Physical Features of the Boongary

7. The boongary is grey, brown, or red-brown in colour. The coat may have patches of different colours. The animal has a dark and often black face.

8. The head is small in proportion to the rest of the body, and the ears are small.

9. The paws are black and have long and curved claws.

10. The animal has strong, muscular forelimbs and long and wide hind feet. The front of the feet are dark in colour.

11. Like the other species in its genus, the animal has a very long, pendulous tail that helps it to maintain its balance in the trees. The tail isn't prehensile and therefore can't be coiled around branches.

12. Males weigh an average of seventeen pounds and females an average of fourteen pounds.

13. Though the animal travels through the trees with ease and spends most of its time there, it comes to the ground at times. It has no difficulty in moving over the ground, as seen in the video about the species shown above, and often hops from one tree to another.

In the video above, a rescued youngster demonstrates its ability to move in the trees. A wild adult would probably be even more skillful.

Life in the Trees

14. The Lumholtz's tree kangaroo is usually found at higher elevations in montane rainforest, though it's also seen in drier areas and at lower elevations.

15. The animal is a folivore, which means it primarily eats leaves. These are thought to come from a wide variety of plants.

16. The animal also eats some fruits and vines.

17. The marsupial climbs trunks quickly as long as the bark is rough enough for it to grasp.

18. Tree kangaroos in general are agile and adept in the trees. They balance well in the tree canopy and can leap from one branch to another.

19. The animals have flexible ankles and use both bipedal and quadrupedal locomotion in the canopy. They can move their hind legs independently of one another.

20. A tree kangaroo can splay and curl its front toes to enable it to grasp objects. It doesn't have opposable thumbs, however.

21. The Lumholtz's tree kangaroo is mostly solitary, except during the mating season or when a mother is caring for a joey (youngster).

As one scientist has said, many people are impressed by the ability of arboreal monkeys to move through the tree canopy, but tree kangaroos deserve respect for their ability to move through the trees, too.

Reproduction of the Species

22. A male's territory overlaps that of several females. It's thought that the male is polygamous and mates with multiple females in his territory.

23. Females are reproductively mature at around two years of age. Males don't mature until they are four-and-a-half years old (on average).

24. It’s believed that the species doesn't have a specific breeding season. Further research may change this assumption.

25. The gestation period is forty-two to forty-six days.

26. Only one joey is produced per mating.

27. Since the tree kangaroo is a marsupial, its youngsters are born in a very immature state and then crawl up to the pouch opening. Here a youngster attaches to a teat and continues its development.

28. The joey doesn't completely leave the pouch until it's around eight months old.

29. Before it lives independently, the joey is gradually weaned and spends some time outside of the pouch and some time in it.

30. Even when the youngster is completely weaned, it stays with its mother for a while. This period may last for up to a year—or perhaps even longer— until the mother mates again.

31. The average lifespan of the species in the wild is unknown. It may be much less than the number given in the quote below.

There is little information regarding the lifespan of the Lumholtz tree-kangaroo, but the Matchies tree-kangaroo, a closely related tree kangaroo, has been reported to live for up to 20 years in captivity

— The Zoo Aquarium Association

The IUCN abbreviations shown above represent the following categories describing animal populations.

LC: Least Concern

NT: Near Threatened

VU: Vulnerable

EN: Endangered

CR: Critically Endangered

EW: Extinct in the Wild

EX: Extinct

Population Status and Threats

32. The IUCN, or International Union for Conservation of Nature, maintains a Red List for animals. The list classifies populations according to their nearness to extinction. The Lumholtz's tree kangaroo is classified in the "Near Threatened" category of the Red List.

33. It's thought that the population size is somewhere around 20,000 animals, including juveniles. The last population assessment done by the IUCN was in 2014.

34. In the past, the species was threatened by habitat loss. Now that conservation laws are in place, this is no longer a problem.

35. The animal's current habitat is quite fragmented, causing animals to exist in isolated groups. This is normally harmful for a species. Genetic diversity in a population is reduced when genetically similar animals breed. This may make the population more susceptible to new stresses. So far, the fragmentation doesn't seem to be affecting the tree kangaroo population in terms of diversity.

36. Habitat fragmentation is causing some problems for the species, however. Some animals are leaving their habitat, presumably to find new areas to browse. In certain locations, they are being attacked by dogs or being hit by motor vehicles as they do this.

37. In some areas, safe corridors between different patches of habitat exist. The corridors are important because they help to protect the animals as they travel.

38. Climate change might pose a problem for the species, since it is so dependent on eating nutritious and safe leaves from specific trees.

Another view of a Lumholtz's tree kangaroo

Another view of a Lumholtz's tree kangaroo

Another Threat and a Worrying Mystery

39. The Lumholtz's tree kangaroo is facing another threat. Some animals have recently become blind. This is a worrying observation, especially since the cause in unknown.

40. The blindness may be caused by a bacterial or viral infection or by a toxin. The scientist in the video above says that some animals are arriving at the tree kangaroo rescue centre with brain damage as well as blindness. The problem isn’t currently believed to be widespread in the animal’s population, but it is concerning.

Population Assessment

Dendrolagus lumholtzi is not considered to be a common animal. It may be more common than some people realize, however, because it's often hidden by the tree canopy. The animal's population doesn't appear to be in major trouble at the moment, though the vision loss is a concern.

Another area of concern is the fact that the IUCN says that the population trend for the animal is unknown. A new assessment is needed to determine whether the population is increasing, stable, or decreasing.

It would be helpful if scientists performed further studies relating to the animal's behaviour and biology. Unanswered questions about its life still exist. The creation of additional habitat corridors could also be an important strategy to help the species.

An Intriguing Species

Like its relatives, the Lumholtz's tree kangaroo is an intriguing animal. A more accurate assessment of the animal's numbers would be useful, as would more detailed information about the threats that they face. Hopefully, the cause of the strange vision problem experienced by members of the species will soon be discovered and the problem will be solved.

The diversity in nature is fascinating and impressive. Marsupials are an important part of this diversity. The tree kangaroos are interesting representatives of their group. Learning more them and about Dendrolagus lumholtzi in particular could be valuable for the animals and perhaps for us.


  • Locomotion of tree kangaroos from Scientific American
  • Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo information from Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan (The IUCN Red List status for the animal mentioned on this site is out of date.)
  • A PDF document containing tree kangaroo facts (including facts about Dendrolagus lumholtzi) from the Australian Wildlife Society
  • Information about the animals from the World Wildlife Fund
  • Ocular anatomy and pathology in the species (Abstract) from the National Library of Medicine
  • Dendrolagus lumholtzi entry in the IUCN Red List

© 2018 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 22, 2020:

Thanks for the comment, Peggy. The situation in Australia is very worrying. I hope the wildlife in the area recovers.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 22, 2020:

Your article about tree kangaroos is fascinating. First of all, I did not even know they exist. Hopefully, more research will be done to determine why some of them are being blinded. It would be even harder to exist in the wild if blind. I hope the recent fires in Australia did not kill many of them since their numbers are already threatened.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 02, 2019:

Hi, Denise. Like you, I hope the vision problem is cured soon and that researchers learn how to prevent the problem from occurring again.

Blessings to you, too.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on December 02, 2019:

What amazing information. So many species are threated by shrinking habitats today. I hope they find out what is causing the blindness soon and cure it.



Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 16, 2019:

Hi, Mel. I agree—it would be amazing to go to Australia and observe the wildlife. I appreciate your visit.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on February 16, 2019:

Wow, this hopper never sleeps! It would be an amazing journey to travel to Australia again and spend some time observing that continent's unique animals and birds. Great work!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 04, 2019:

Thank you for the comment, Vellur. I appreciate your visit.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on February 04, 2019:

Interesting article about the tree Kangaroo. I sincerely hope they do not become extinct. Thank you for sharing.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 30, 2018:

Thanks for the comment, Bede. I hope you have a happy new year and a great 2019.

Bede from Minnesota on December 30, 2018:

Hi Linda, I was unaware of this interesting kangaroo. Australia surely takes the crown for the most marsupials (something like 70% of the world population). I agree that it’s best to have genetic diversity and I hope that conservationists will seek ways to better the situation.

Have a great New Year, Linda!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 27, 2018:

Thanks for the interesting comment, Dora. Happy New Year to you as well!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 27, 2018:

Happy New Year from me, too. You always give us so many uncommon facts about plants and animals. I find it interesting that the female kangaroo is usually ready for reproduction before the male. Seems like nature's is suggesting that females mate with older males, at least for this animal.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 26, 2018:

Hi, Heidi. Happy New Year to you, too!

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on December 26, 2018:

Aw, they're so cute! Glad they're not on the severely threatened list. Thanks for sharing and Happy New Year!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 26, 2018:

Thanks for the visit and the comment, Devika. The Lumholtz's tree kangaroo is the smallest member of the group, but I think they are all cute in some way.

Devika Primic on December 26, 2018:

Tree kangaroos are small and so cute. I had no idea of tree kangaroos and the facts you shared here. Always an enjoyable read from you.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 25, 2018:

Thank you very much, Chitrangada. I hope you have a great week.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 25, 2018:

Excellent information about tree kangaroos. They look smaller than the ones, we usually see at the zoos.

Thanks for sharing the interesting facts, Pictures and videos of these lovely creatures.

Merry Christmas and enjoy the holidays!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 23, 2018:

Thank you, Eman. Tree kangaroos have some unusual features compared to other kangaroos. I think they're worth studying,

Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on December 23, 2018:

Thank you, Linda, for this interesting article. It is the first time for me to read about this breed of kangaroos.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 22, 2018:

Hi, Manatita. I was especially impressed by the woman in the second video, too. The animals are interesting and deserve respect. Thanks for the visit.

manatita44 from london on December 22, 2018:

I like the way that they move between the trees and their ability with ropes. Cute and original and yes, they deserve lots of respect. The woman in the second video, perhaps both, seem to be natural kangaroo lovers. They seem very cute and have great climbing skills.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 21, 2018:

Thank you for the comment, Pamela. I hope you and your family have a happy Christmas, too.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 21, 2018:

Thank you, Liz. I appreciate your visit and comment.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 21, 2018:

I didn't know there was a tree kangaroo, and they are not very big. They are certainly very interesting. I learn so much reading your articles about various species they I have never heard of before.

Hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas.

Liz Westwood from UK on December 21, 2018:

This is avery interesting article. I had not heard of this breed of kangaroo before.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 21, 2018:

Thanks, Bill. Merry Christmas to you and your family, too.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 21, 2018:

Well see there, I didn't even know there were tree kangaroos. How very cool. I just continue to learn from you, Linda, so thank you. And Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 20, 2018:

Hi, Flourish. Your idea is certainly worth trying. It would be great to help animals in trouble before the situation becomes serious.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 20, 2018:

I like the idea of safe corridors for their travel. I often think that if enough good people can put their money and energy together they can help find solutions for threatened or endangered animals like this one before things get too out of hand for them.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 20, 2018:

Hi, Jackie. I hope that researchers and conservationists get any funding that they need as well. Protecting wildlife is important. Thanks for the visit.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 20, 2018:

Oh, I hope they do get the funding needed, Linda. So none of the species iare lost. I really respect the people who devote their whole lives to these causes.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 20, 2018:

I think they do, too!

Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on December 20, 2018:

They look adorable. :)