Goodfellow's Tree-Kangaroo

The Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus goodfellowi) is classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List due to an ongoing population decline of at least 50% over the past three generations in their range country of Papua New Guinea. Activities such as mining, logging and palm oil plantations continue to result in habitat contraction and are largely driven by the developed world, although some of the largest oil palm companies involved are based in developing countries. Local people also contribute to habitat loss through clearing forest for fuel, timber and farm gardens. Traditional use of tree-kangaroos is also noted. (Leary et al 2008).

The Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo is one of two priority Papua New Guinea tree-kangaroo species for which there are international cooperative breeding programmes. The population of 55 individuals continues to struggle with low numbers, low gene diversity and consequently some inbreeding, while the lack of potential to acquire new founders will only further hinder this population.

A WAZA Global Species Management Plan (GSMP) for Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo was endorsed in 2013. The GSMP is facilitated by the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA), Australasia.

The primary goal of the GSMP is to promote the maintenance of a cooperatively managed global ex situ population of Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroos that delivers key advocacy conservation messages widely and effectively. The management of the ex situ population considers genetic and demographic principles and provides for a positive welfare state for captive animals. The GSMP will help facilitate international transfers that will be inevitably needed given population demographic and genetic parameters. Furthermore, the GSMP will form a model for working towards integrating animals held in range state Papua New Guinea.

It is hoped that the GSMP will provide a platform for greater integration between in situ conservation agencies and captive facilities and will ultimately assist to conserve Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroos in the wild. The establishment of legally recognised conservation areas in Papua New Guinea, as well as education and empowerment of the people is being advocated by conservation organisations such as the Tenkile Conservation Alliance (TCA) and the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP). Both the TCA and TKCP have been identified as the priority in situ programmes for the GSMP. A specific Goodfellow’s in situ conservation project will be explored further.

Megan Richardson – GSMP Convener, ASMP Species Coordinator and International Studbook Keeper, Melbourne Zoo.

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