Goodfellows Tree-kangaroo (Flannery et al, 1996: 104-105)

Goodfellow's Tree-kangaroo

Dendrolagus goodfellowi goodfellowi
(Thomas 1908)

The hunter heard scuffling, and found two tree-kangaroos playing on the forest floor. He shot one, which was an adult male. He had never seen such an animal before. We nearly missed collecting it, as we were actually leaving the place on a PMV [truck] when he came running up behind us, carrying the tree-kangaroo on his shoulders ...

-- Lester Seri of the Papua New Guinea Department of Environment and Conservation, describing the capture of a specimen on Mt Victory, Northern Province, in November 1992.

MICHAEL OLDFIELD THOMAS devoted his life to the description of new species of mammals. By the time of his death in 1929 he had named nearly 2900 genera, species and subspecies of mammals. This is a very large number when it is remembered that the total mammal fauna of the world consists of only 4500-5000 species. Thomas described Goodfellow's Tree-kangaroo in a brief note, naming it in honour of its discoverer, Walter Goodfellow Esq. It was the only tree-kangaroo Thomas ever described.

The specimen collected by Goodfellow remained all that was known of the subspecies for 44 years. Then, in 1952, Eleanor Laurie of the British Museum (Natural History) described a skin without a skull collected by Fred Shaw Mayer in far eastern Papua. Only a few specimens have been' collected subsequently, the most important being that collected by Lester Seri. Notes accompanying this specimen provide the only natural history observations concerning the subspecies. It was one of two specimens seen 'playing' on the forest floor by a hunter. It was an adult male and may have been about to copulate with a female, or perhaps was fighting with another male.

Goodfellow's Tree-kangaroo has a limited distribution in southeast New Guinea. Local hunters report that it is absent from the central mountains in the Kokoda area, but that it inhabits the outlying ranges. It is likewise absent from the higher part of the Wharton Range.

Very little has been learned of it since its description. It is very similar to Timboyok (Dendrolagus goodfellowi buergersi), differing primarily in its larger size, narrower skull and slight (possibly inconsistent) colour differences. Until more specimens are collected, its validity as a distinct subspecies will remain uncertain.

page 104 - 105

Information reproduced from Tree Kangaroos: A Curious Natural History, Melbourne: Reed Books Australia.
© Copyright by Timothy Fridtjof Flannery, Roger Martin, Alexandra Szalay. Illustrations Copyright by Peter Schouten, 1996.
HTML version produced with permission for Papuaweb, 2004.