Wondiwoi Tree-kangaroo (Flannery et al, 1996: 118-119)

Wondiwoi Tree-kangaroo

Dendrolagus dorianus mayri
(Rothschild and Dollman, 1933)

We are pleased to associate this new species with the name of Mr E. Mayr, the collector ...

-- Lord Walter Rothschild and Captain Guy Dollman, describing their new Tree-Kangaroo, 1933.

THE WONDIWOI TREE-KANGAROO is one of the most poorly known mammals on Earth, for it is still known only from a single adult male specimen. This was collected in 1928 by Professor Ernst Mayr, now in his nineties and one of the world's leading evolutionary biologists. Then, he was an enthusiastic young German collector with a special interest in birds. Remarkably, Mayr took the trouble to weigh his tree-kangaroo specimen, and so the adult male body weight of this subspecies is known (9.25 kilograms). Such attention to detail was almost unheard of at the time, and it was to be another 50 years before a biologist would again weigh a tree-kangaroo in the field.

The Wondiwoi Tree-kangaroo is a distinctive animal, carrying to an extreme the yellowish silver tipping of the fur, which increases from east to west among the various subspecies of Doria's Tree-kangaroo. The underlying colour of the coat is blackish, but it is so heavily frosted with yellowish hairs that at certain angles the coat appears to be yellow. The rump and limbs are reddish, while the tail is almost white.

Its habitat is far distant from that of other members of its species, and how it ever came to inhabit the higher parts of the Wondiwoi Peninsula is an enduring zoogeographical mystery.

The mountains of the Wondiwoi Peninsula include substantial deposits of high grade mica. Plans have been developed to establish a mine there. If these plans come to fruition, they could have a considerable adverse impact upon this distinctive tree-kangaroo.

page 118 - 119

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.