New online tree kangaroo mapping

September 18, 2019

New online mapping is helping the public to help Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroos.

The elusive creatures, which only live in Far North Queensland, spend most daylight hours snoozing in the treetops well out of sight.

Now data collected over many years has been combined to get a better idea of their whereabouts and ideal habitats, future population trends and potential effects of changing climates. 

Professor Sigrid Heise-Pavlov from the Centre for Rainforest Studies has worked with the Atherton-based Tree Kangaroo and Mammal Group and Terrain NRM on the project.

She said the online mapping was the first comprehensive mapping for this species, which is under threat from loss of habitat, changing climate conditions and a condition causing blindness.

“We’ve used verified sightings, public and private databases, studies and surveys from the last 40 years,’’ Ms Heise-Pavlov said.  “Together they tell us where Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroos are, where they have been and what areas of the Far North are ideal for tree kangaroo populations.

“In the future this will also help us to know more about tree kangaroo numbers and whether climate changes move them to higher elevations.”

Terrain NRM’s Bronwyn Robertson said the mapping is on the Wet Tropics Plan for People and Country website.

“This has all came about after working with Tully’s Gulngay people, who told us that their elders had stories from 30 or more years ago of tree kangaroos in the Tully district,” Ms Robertson said. 

“They asked for a tree kangaroo mapping layer on the community mapping portal we were creating for them as an online record of how they care for country. This has led to tree kangaroo mapping that everyone in the Wet Tropics can use.”

Ms Heise-Pavlov said tree kangaroos were not known to live in the Tully district anymore but the mapping showed there was habitat that suited the species in the Tully Valley.

“Populations are centred on the higher elevations of the Atherton Tablelands, from 650m,’’ she said.  “However, some animals have been seen in lowland areas near Cairns. These are probably dispersing individuals following rainforest gullies down to the coast while searching for their own territory.

“The mapping of this species’ habitat, based on sightings, also shows us that tree kangaroos are very versatile. They are most often seen in rainforest but are also at home in drier habitats along the Herberton Range and in the Ravenshoe area. They can also use several small fragments of rainforest as their home, and have been observed living in restored rainforest.”

The Tree Kangaroo and Mammal Group’s Simon Burchill encouraged members of the public to report sightings via the group’s Facebook page.

“We’ve used hundreds of scientific sightings and incidental sightings to help identify areas with suitable habitat, but we don’t know whether tree kangaroos actually live in some of these areas,’’ he said.

“Tree kangaroos are not well-known. They’re not easy animals for most people to spot.

“The Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo is currently listed as ‘near threatened’ in Queensland, with population trends unknown. Sightings improve our understanding of where they live and how to best conserve this species for future generations.”

To see the Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo mapping go to the ‘Biodiversity DIY Mapping Tool’ at www.wettropicsplan.org.au

This project is supported by Terrain NRM through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.