The Wondiwoi tree kangaroo was believed to have gone extinct sometime after 1928, the first and last time it was actually seen and recorded by scientists. Even then, this animal was so rare that only drawings of it existed, no photographs. And thanks to one amateur botanist who went looking for it, this rare animal that was thought to be lost has reappeared again.
The super-rare tree kangaroo has not just been seen, it’s been photographed for the first time in the animal’s history. That’s great news because without photographic evidence this roo is hard to believe. It’s a monkey-like kangaroo that climbs around the trees in the forests of New Guinea. When it was originally discovered, it was described as bear-like. In short, it’s pretty odd-looking.
Very little is known about this rare animal, but that’s all changing thanks to one amateur botanist. Michael Smith, an Englishman, led an expedition into the dense bamboo forests of West Papua, Indonesia in the Wondiwoi mountains, and he discovered that the Wondiwoi tree kangaroo isn’t extinct after all.
Wondiwoi tree kangaroos are medium-sized kangaroos who climb and hop through the trees, one of only 17 species and subspecies of tree kangaroos living in the northern reaches of Australia and the island of New Guinea.
Smith, who led the expedition, doesn’t usually go looking for extinct animals. He heard about the elusive tree kangaroo in 2017 while searching for rhododendrons in the West Papua mountains, and got inspired. With the intention of finding this rarely-seen animal, he trekked into the dense forests and started to climb up into the trees. It only took him a week of searching to find the long-lost kangaroo that has been numbered as an extinct species for years.
Last Known Sighting
The Wondiwoi tree kangaroo was first discovered in 1928 by biologist Ernst Mary, who shot and killed the only known specimen. The pelt was sent to the Natural History Museum in London. After that, the tree kangaroo disappeared. Scientists have believed it was extinct for years, perhaps killed once and for all during that fateful 1928 sighting.
The extremely rare sightings of the animals may be due to the fact that the Wondiwoi tree kangaroo lives at high elevations, hiding way up in the tree canopy. Smith’s team climbed up to about 5,000 feet before spotting the animals, signing it at last just when they were going to climb back down. Smith managed to take several photographs of the Wondiwoi tree kangaroo and made history.
Smith’s experience is only the second-known sighting of the animal, ever, which makes it truly thrilling for the scientific community. As a next step, Smith plans to collect excrement from the kangaroo so that it can be compared to DNA from the pelt. This will conclusively confirm that Smith has found this mysterious animal.
It will take further expeditions into the dense forest for scientists to determine approximately how many Wondiwoi tree kangaroos exist and learn more about these still-mysterious creatures who have remained hidden from human eyes for the last 90 years.
I’m loving the Wondiwoi tree kangaroo newspaper headlines:Roosflash! (The Mail on Sunday)Where have roo been? (The…