Dorias Tree-kangaroo (Flannery et al, 1996: 116-117)

Doria's Tree-kangaroo

Dendrolagus dorianus dorianus
(Ramsay, 1883)

I have named this species in honour of the Marquis of Doria, from whose papers, with those of Dr Peters, I have gained valuable information on Papuan zoology ...

-- Edward Pearson Ramsay, upon naming Dendrolagus Dorianus, 1883.

THIS IS PERHAPS the most thick-set and robust of all of the tree-kangaroos. The first specimens to be seen by Europeans were found in the Astrolabe Range, probably in the vicinity of present day Varirata National Park near Port Moresby. Subsequently it was found over a large portion of southeast New Guinea, where it remains reasonably common.

Doria's Tree-kangaroo is a sombre brown colour, lacking any silver tipping on the body fur. It is very stocky and has large claws, giving it a rather bear-like appearance. It reaches a very large size for an arboreal mammal. One captive adult male (which may have been a little overweight) reached 18 kilograms in weight. Males average 13.3 kilograms, and females 10.2 kilograms in weight.

Doria's Tree-kangaroo is found over a very wide elevational range, from about 600 metres to more than 3600 metres elevation in southeastern New Guinea. This region is sparsely populated and has a rugged topography; therefore, hunting pressure is probably slight. Bruce Beehler has told me that he found it to be common at high elevation on English Peaks. Tourists visiting Mt Suckling by helicopter have reported seeing it there.

Goilala hunters consider large males of this species to be particularly formidable adversaries, and hunting dogs often suffer deep scratches and bites during the hunt. Small groups have been kept in captivity in European and Australian zoos over the years, but all those outside Papua New Guinea have now ceased to exist. Phillip Leahy of Zenag (Papua New Guinea) has kept a captive colony for several years and has bred them successfully on a number of occasions. The colony is thriving.

Dr Udo Ganslosser studied some of the groups held in Europe during the 1970s, and has provided much information on their social behaviour. He found Doria's Tree-kangaroo to be among the most social of all marsupials. They live in small groups comprising several adult females and their offspring, dominated by a single adult male. There is a strict social hierarchy, with one female being dominant over the others. Adults of both sexes play socially with juveniles, and most social interactions are peaceful. Adults have a not-unpleasant musky odour, which is particularly strong on males.

Males have a characteristic superiority display, which consists of sitting up on the hindlimbs and raising the forearms with the claws stretched and the snout raised. This display is often accompanied by thrashing of the tail.

page 116 - 117

Extracts 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.