- New Guinea is home to 12 of 14 species of the elusive, charismatic tree kangaroo.
- Conservationists in Papua New Guinea have been fighting for decades to establish protected areas using these species as a flagship species for these conservation efforts. PNG is now on the cusp of passing legislation aimed at creating a network of them.
- The Torricelli mountain range in northern PNG, home to the critically endangered tenkile tree kangaroo, has been in the crosshairs of a road project threatening to encroach upon the region, but the government is in the process of reviewing a draft proposal to halt the road for now.
- We speak with Jim Thomas of the Tenkile Conservation Alliance and Lisa Dabek and Modi Pontio of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program for this episode to explore what’s known about these intelligent marsupials, and the successes from nearly two decades working in PNG to conserve both them and the forests they inhabit.
The fifth episode in the New Guinea series of Mongabay Explores looks at the various tree kangaroo species of New Guinea and their potential to drive conservation and income streams for local communities. Listen here:
Occupying the cloud forests of New Guinea, these montane marsupials are as distinct as the island itself, the world’s second-largest and home to the third-largest expanse of tropical rainforest. New Guinea is also notable for having the tallest mountain on an island in the world, Puncak Jaya at 4,884 meters (16,024 feet). As such, New Guinea has become an isolated evolutionary backdrop for the vast majority of the world’s tree kangaroos, a group of marsupials in the genus Dendrolagus.
Jim Thomas of the Tenkile Conservation Alliance, who has worked in Papua New Guinea (PNG) conserving tree kangaroos for 19 years with his wife, Jean Thomas, joins the podcast to detail the history and culture surrounding tree kangaroos. He chronicles how he and his team have leveraged protection of animals to help fund community development and income streams for 50 villages. He also shares their struggles to have the Torricelli mountain range, home to the tenkile tree kangaroo (D. scottae), declared an official protected area, suffering police intimidation and violence toward his staff and community members.
Lisa Dabek, senior conservation scientist at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, also joins the podcast to discuss the work she and associate director Modi Pontio of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program in PNG have achieved in their decades working in the YUS conservation area (named for the Yopno, Uruwa and Som rivers). Centering their efforts around the Matschie’s tree kangaroo (D. matschiei), like the Thomases they have successfully implemented projects to build alternative income streams for local inhabitants. Dabek shares her insight on next steps for PNG to realize its potential in conserving its forests and linking conservation with developing critical services and income for local communities.
Mongabay Explores is an ongoing episodic podcast series about the world’s unique places and species. Each season dives into new areas of amazing natural heritage, their environmental challenges and conservation solutions. This season, it’s exploring the great conservation and cultural richness of New Guinea. If you missed the first four episodes in this season, you can listen to them here.
- Deforestation threatens tree kangaroo habitat in Papua New Guinea
- Road construction imperils tree kangaroo recovery in PNG
- Forgotten species: the endearing Tenkile tree kangaroo
Sounds heard during the intro and outro include the following: rusty mouse-warbler, growling riflebird, raggiana/lesser bird-of-paradise, superb fruit-dove, long-billed honeyeater, little shrike-thrush, brown cuckoo-dove, black-capped lory. Special thanks to Tim Boucher and Bruce Beehler for identifying them.
Soundscape credit: recorded in the Adelbert Mountains in Papua New Guinea by the communities of Musiamunat, Yavera and Iwarame in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and Zuzana Burivalova/Sound Forest Lab.
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Banner Image: A Matschie’s tree kangaroo. Image by Jonathan Byers courtesy of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program.