Threats to tree-kangaroos

There are three major threats to Lumholtz's tree-kangaroos:

  • habitat degradation and habitat loss,
  • cars
  • domestic dogs
  • cats--both feral and domestic
  • and natural predation (dingoes, pythons, possibly raptors)

Only 12% of the Lumholtz's tree-kangaroo habitat is in protected areas, i.e. national parks. The highest densities of Lumholtz's tree-kangaroos though occur on the Atherton Tablelands, mostly on private land where their habitat is prone to alteration, fragmentation or destruction for commercial purposes, such as agriculture, dairy farming and logging for timber. Loss of habitat is a genuine threat to tree-kangaroos and other animals. We don't yet know whether fragmentation is a significant threat to the overall population but fragmentation (and the need to travel between fragments) increases the number of tree-kangaroos killed on roads or by dogs.

If frightened tree-kangaroos tend to 'freeze' and blend in with their surroundings which characterises their main predator avoidance behaviour--hiding in plain sight, sometimes referred to as 'crypsis'. When even more distressed they vocalise with a "fft-fft-fft" sound and/or leap out of a tree (from as high as 20m) and take flight on the ground. This might be a good strategy to escape their natural predators such owls, eagles and pythons, but it is not a good strategy to escape ground predators such as dogs or dingoes. Tree-kangaroos are quite comfortable travelling across open ground and will readily cross roads during which time they are vulnerable to being killed or injured by vehicles. To help reduce the road-toll of tree-kangaroos and other wildlife, please drive no faster than the posted speed limit, be alert for animals crossing the road and perhaps drive a little more slowly and cautiously in areas that are sign-posted as tree-kangaroo crossing areas.

Domestic dogs can have a negative impact on tree-kangaroos (and other wildlife) both directly and indirectly. Actively chasing, attacking and sometimes killing wildlife is a direct impact that domestic dogs can have on wildlife. Even the nicest pet family dog may not be able to control the natural urge to chase a tree-kangaroo or wallaby that hops across the dogs' field of view. Dog injuries are not always obvious and injured animals should be taken to a qualified veterinarian for examination. Walking dogs in areas where tree-kangaroos are found can have a negative impact by disturbing the animals, causing them to stop feeding or move to another area.

Cats (both feral and domestic) can have a negative impact on tree-kangaroos and other wildlife because of the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii which is found in cat faeces (poo). This parasite can infect any warm-blooded creature (humans, tree-kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons, birds) and can cause serious (but not necessarily fatal) disease. Allowing your cat to range freely outside means that it will be killing birds, reptiles, small native mammals and also spreading this parasite. If you have a cat, we urge you to keep it confined indoors. Indoor cats can lead happy, healthy lives and actually live longer than cats allowed to freely roam outside.

Activities of the TKMG such as tree-kangaroo road signage in high tree-kangaroo roadkill areas, the promotion and implementation of wildlife tunnels in road upgrades and raising awareness of motorists and dog owners about what they can do to protect tree kangaroos aim to help to mitigate the impact people, their vehicles and their animals have on tree-kangaroos. The revegetation initiatives and wildlife corridor plantings supported by TKMG also aim to alleviate the pressures on this unique species.