In Australia itself, few people know about tree kangaroos, because these marsupials live in tropical mountain forests in the northeastern part of the state of Queensland, on nearby islands. The historical home of tree kangaroos is New Guinea, but they have only recently arrived on the Australian continent.
Externally, the tree kangaroo resembles a small bear. The total length of the torso, including the head, ranges from 50 to 80 centimeters, and with the tail a little more than 90. It can weigh from 5 to 18 kilograms, depending on sex and age. Life expectancy by animal parameters is quite long – up to 20 years.
The jumping abilities of tree kangaroos are not inferior to monkeys. They easily jump from one tree to another, the distance between which can reach up to nine meters. They can easily jump down from a height of eighteen meters without getting injured due to landing on their springy hind legs. On the ground, tree kangaroos move in frequent small jumps, throwing their bodies forward and keeping their balance with the help of their long tail, which they arch upwards.
However, they rarely make “runs” because they lead a nocturnal lifestyle. For about 15 hours they sleep stretched out on branches of tall trees out of reach of local predators, dingo dogs. Tree kangaroos live either alone or in small groups consisting of a male and one or more females with cubs. They descend from trees mainly for watering. They feed on leaves, lianas, forest fruits and even small animals. They are very fond of ferns, for which they usually come down to the ground at dawn.
These unique creatures breed throughout the year, as they have no mating season. Usually one cub is born, which after birth spends about a year with its mother in the pouch. During this period, it is attached to the mother’s nipple, through which periodically spills milk into the mouth of the baby. Literally a couple of hours before the birth of the baby, the mother kangaricha begins to thoroughly lick her pouch and at the same time a narrow strip of hair on her abdomen. The embryo, which has already, strangely enough, something like small claws, quickly moves across the mother’s abdomen into the pouch and there it is firmly attached to one of her nipples. In this position the kangaroo spends eight months. At the end of this period, it leaves its shelter and a new embryo immediately takes its place.
Scientists have discovered an interesting feature of tree kangaroos. It turns out that the female is able to slow down or accelerate the development of the embryo if necessary. So, in case of drought or hunger, the cub remains in the mother’s body until better times. In addition, if an already grown-up kangaroo suddenly dies, the next one – its younger brother – immediately appears in the pouch.
Recently, Australian scientists have suggested that tree kangaroos can do their part in humanity’s fight against global warming. It turns out that domestic herbivorous animals such as cows and sheep release huge amounts of methane from their stomachs – about 15% of all greenhouse gases from the Australian continent into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The stomach of the tree kangaroo, with the help of as yet unknown bacteria, completely recycles the methane produced in its body. Scientists are trying to discover these bacteria to try to relocate them into the digestive systems of cows and sheep. If this happens, the air on earth will become much cleaner.
Thus, tree kangaroos are unique inhabitants of the Australian rainforest that not only have amazing abilities, but can also play an important role in solving the problem of global warming.