Matschie’s tree kangaroo joey
The Matschie’s tree kangaroo joey inside its mother’s pouch at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Photo by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is celebrating a conservation milestone with the birth of an endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroo—only the second time this species has been born at the Safari Park.

The female joey, named Kikori, was born to mother Arona and father Bek, at the end of August 2022 at the Safari Park’s Walkabout Australia.

 “We are elated with the birth of this Matschie’s tree kangaroo joey,” said Donovan Vila, wildlife care specialist, at San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Matschie’s tree kangaroos are endangered, so this joey provides hope for the future of this species.”  

Matschie’s tree kangaroos are about the size of a jellybean at birth, after a 45-day gestation period. Once born, the joey crawls into its mother’s pouch, where it attaches to a nipple and begins to develop as it gains nourishment. The joey remains in the pouch until around 6 months of age when it becomes considerably more active—and movement is often seen outside the pouch. By 7 months of age, joey’s head should be fully visible.  

Arona’s joey is now 9 months old and recently started climbing out of the pouch. She also is showing interest in browsing items such as ficus, hibiscus, and ferns, and is sampling solid food such as carrots, cucumber, and lettuce. The joey will remain in her mother’s pouch for about eight to 10 months, exiting the pouch for extended periods and returning to the nurse. Arona will wean her joey when the youngster is about a year old, but joey will stay close to mom for about a year and a half.  

Matschie’s tree kangaroos are native to one tiny part of the world—Papua New Guinea and the Huon Peninsula—and they are sometimes found in the rainforests of Australia. They are listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. It is estimated that there are fewer than 2,500 adult Matschie’s tree kangaroos left in their native habitats, and their population is decreasing. They are hunted by humans for food and trade. Habitat loss due to expanding agriculture further threatens their population.  

 Little is known about Matschie’s tree kangaroos in their native habitat, but they are believed to be solitary animals except when a mother is raising offspring. Matschie’s tree kangaroos live in elevations of up to 11,000 feet and spend most of their time in trees, eating leaves from a variety of forest trees, along with vines, ferns, orchids, shrubs, and herbs. Because their diet consists mostly of fruits, seeds, and nuts, they are primary seed dispersers and contribute to creating and maintaining healthy forests. In addition, they are culturally important to Indigenous communities.  

Matschie’s tree kangaroos arrived at the Safari Park in 2018 as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo Species Survival Plan, designed to help maintain a healthy assurance population of this species. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is involved in wildlife conservation efforts in eight eco-regional conservation “hubs” worldwide, including the Australian Forest Conservation Hub.  

The Safari Park’s Walkabout Australia experience offers a view into habitats of the Land Down Under, featuring Australia’s interesting and unique species. Featured wildlife besides Matschie’s tree kangaroos includes western gray kangaroos, southern cassowaries, and two platypuses—the only two living outside of Australia.  

 Guests visiting Walkabout Australia may get a glimpse of Arona and her joey in their habitat, adjacent to Zuest Woolshed.