Book Review: Quest for the Tree Kangaroo by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop

by DerdriuMarriner

Quest for the Tree Kangaroo by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop relives an expedition to find, observe, and release with radio collars New Guinea's cloud forest-dwelling marsupial.

Matschie's tree kangaroos leap around Papua New Guinea:

Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea appears as a 2006-released title in the Scientists in the Field series. It begins with an expedition to the cloud forests 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) above sea level at a three-day hike from Yawan village on Papua New Guinea’s Huon Peninsula. The team consists of:
• Nic Bishop, author, biologist, photographer;
• Lisa Dabek, Woodland Park Zoo conservationist, Washington;
• Joel Glick, Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program ex-field coordinator/scientist;
• Christine McKnight, Minnesota Zoo zookeeper;
• Sy Montgomery, author;
• Gabriel Porolak, James Cook University graduate student;
• Holly Reed, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium veterinarian, Washington;
• Toby Ross, herpetologist and Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program field coordinator/scientist; and
• Robin Wingrave, mapmaker.

Matschie's Tree Kangaroos' love of leaves, especially cloud forest flora such as Saurauia madrensis, qualifies them as folivores (herbivores specializing in eating leaves).

Saurauia madrensis: University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley, California
Saurauia madrensis: University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley, California

Matschie's tree kangaroos like Dacrydium, Decaspermum, Elatostema, Saurauia

 

The name Wasaunon designates the camp where scientists operate from:

  • 9 to 10 single-occupant tents;
  • two fern-, moss-covered, sapling-built latrines; and
  • two fern-, moss-covered, sapling-built dining, kitchen, trackers' dormitory lodges.

A few degrees south of the Equator, the forest explodes with:

  • bamboo (Bambuseae tribe);
  • Coleus;
  • Dacrydium;
  • dogwood-like, gold-centered, white-petaled Saurauia flowers;
  • ferns;
  • figs (Ficus spp);
  • grasses (Poaceae family);
  • Impatiens;
  • lace-, umbrella-like mushrooms;
  • lichens, liverworts (Marchantiophyta division);
  • myrtle (Decaspermum spp); 
  • orchids (Orchidaceae family);
  • Pandanus palms;
  • raspberry-like stinging nettles (Elatostema spp);
  • Rhododendron;
  • trees 600+ years old;
  • vegetation revelatory of 70,000,000+ evolutionary years;
  • wild strawberries (Fragaria spp); and
  • yellow mosses, vines.

The 44-member expedition finds Matschie’s tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus matschiei) gazing from 80- to 110-foot (24.38- to 33.53-meter) arboreal heights.  

 

Matschie's Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus matschiei), also known as Huon Tree Kangaroo, with joey's head, paw, and tail peeking out from pouch.

Bronx Zoo, New York City
Bronx Zoo, New York City

Matschie's tree kangaroos live fearful of pythons, raptors

 

The expedition also gets acquainted with Matschie’s tree kangaroo’s fellow wildlife:

  • cassowaries (Casuarius spp);
  • cowrie (Cypraeidae family), triton (Charonia spp) shells;
  • eclectus parrots (Eclectus roratus);
  • forest wallabies (Dorcopsis spp);
  • grey-bellied tree mice (Pogonomys sylvestris);
  • harpy eagles (Harpia harpyja);
  • hornbills (Bucerotidae family);
  • jumping spiders (Salticidae family);
  • leeches (Hirudinea subclass);
  • long-beaked spiny anteaters (Zaglossus bartoni);
  • mountain cuscus (Phalanger carmelitae);
  • pademelon (Thylogale spp);
  • poison-feathered Pitohui;
  • Raggiana birds-of-paradise (Paradisaea raggiana);
  • sugar gliders (Petaurus breviceps);
  • Victoria crowned pigeons (Goura victoria); and
  • weevils (Curculionoidea superfamily).

Expeditionists hope that immediate take-aways will be understanding the button-eyed, golden-furred, pink-nosed, round-faced, thick-tailed, upright-eared marsupial whose hind legs uniquely move independently of each other. The long-term concern is sustainability of the 100,000+-acre (40,468.56+-hectare) Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program. 

 

Matschie's Tree Kangaroo synecology: Raggiana Bird of Paradise (Paradisaea raggiana), flamboyant national bird of Papua New Guinea ~

illustration by Joseph Wolf (January 21, 1820 – April 20, 1899); lithography by Joseph Smit (July 18, 1836 – November 4, 1929); printing by M and N Hanhart
D.G. Elliot, A monograph of the Paradiseidae or birds of paradise (1873), Plate III
D.G. Elliot, A monograph of the Paradiseidae or birds of paradise (1873), Plate III

Matschie's tree kangaroos love humid, misty, remote forests

 

Scientists judge as the greatest challenges to Matschie’s tree kangaroo:

  • clear-cutting since New Guinea remains 90% forested;
  • heating from globally-warmed climate change;
  • hunting for fur, meat, trophy claws; and
  • mining since the world’s largest gold and third-largest copper mines -- the Grasberg (“Grass Mountain”) -- are in western (Papua) New Guinea.

So Quest for the Tree Kangaroo keeps cultural enrichment, educational entertainment-seeking readers -- fifth-graders and ten-year-olds upwards -- on the edge of their seats with an expedition to the cloud forest of New Guinea, with:

  • William Betz, jacket artist;
  • Nic Bishop, jacket artist and photographer;
  • Lisa Diercks, book designer;
  • Houghton Mifflin Company’s Angie-set Scientists in the Field series text;
  • Sy Montgomery, author; and
  • Robin Wingrave, mapmaker.

 

The Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea by Sy Montgomery with photos by Nic Bishop ~ available via Amazon

It looks like a bear, climbs trees as easily as a monkey, and has a belly pocket like a kangaroo, but what’s a kangaroo doing up a tree? The amazing Matschie’s tree kangaroo lives in ancient trees of Papua New Guinea’s cloud forest.
New Guinea fauna and flora

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

 

Ancient fossil reefs rise to heights of 82 feet (25 meters) as cliff faces along coastal Huon Peninsula, homeland of Matschie's Tree Kangaroos.

Huon Peninsula, northeastern Papua New Guinea
Huon Peninsula, northeastern Papua New Guinea

Sources Consulted

 

Elliot, Daniel Giraud. 1873. A Monograph of the Paradiseidae or Birds of Paradise. London: D.G. Elliot.

  • Available via Biodiversity Heritage Library at:  http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/44792806

Montgomery, Sy. 2006. Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea. Photographs by Nic Bishop. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

 

Matschie's Tree Kangaroo ecosystem: Finisterre Ranges of northeastern Papua New Guinea's Huon Peninsula, with altitude of 13,620 feet (4150 meters) and prominence~

Finisterre Range was scene of fierce fighting between Australian and Japanese forces during WWII's Finisterre Range campaign (September 19, 1943 – April 24, 1944).
38 Squadron Caribou A4-275, cruising at 10,000 feet (3048 meters) is still beneath Finisterre Ranges.
38 Squadron Caribou A4-275, cruising at 10,000 feet (3048 meters) is still beneath Finisterre Ranges.
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Matschie's Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus Matschiei), Exclusively in Huon Peninsula of Papua New Guinea ~ poster available via AllPosters

photo by Thomas Marent/Minden Pictures
Matschie's Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus Matschiei), Exclusively in Huon Peninsula of Papua New Guinea

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 03/18/2015, DerdriuMarriner
 
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