A recent sighting of a juvenile Bennett's Tree Kangaroo on the corner of Palm Road in Queensland's Daintree region sparked a request from tree roo guru and author, Roger Martin, to visit Bush Heritage's Fan Palm Reserve and investigate the southern distribution of this charismatic creature.
Roger provided the following overview of his current research project following a site visit with Far North Queensland Reserve Manager, Paul Hales.
Bennett's Tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus bennettianus), Australia's largest arboreal mammal, is only found in a relatively small area of forest (around 2,000 sq. km) north of the Daintree River. Largely because it occupies such a small area, its conservation status is listed as 'near threatened'.
What little we know of its biology comes from field studies that I conducted in the vine forests and gallery forests of the Annan River valley further north. In this area, female home ranges are between 6 and 11 ha in size.
We use these home range sizes to make estimates of population size in the different types of forest that Bennett's use. As this time we have no information on the size of their ranges in lowland forests and that is a question that I am currently trying to address.
Bennett's are wary and cryptic animals and are seldom seen by the general public. However, a young female was recently sighted very close to Bush Heritage's Fan Palm Reserve at Diwan, and with a view to setting up a study site there, I am presently trying to establish whether this animal was just moving through the area or if there is a resident population living there.
With the consent of property owners in the area, my next step will be to set up camera traps to see if I can confirm the presence of Bennett's, particularly of breeding females (accompanied by young).
If successful with this, I will then move to establish transect lines, and using volunteers, systematically walk these to collect tree-kangaroo faecal pellets. These can be analysed for DNA and used to identify individual animals.
With GPS data on the precise location of the collection site of the pellets, estimates can then be made of the home ranges of the animals, and extrapolating from these, an estimate of the size of the population.
This would inform our efforts to conserve one of the most iconic species living in the rainforests of the Daintree region.