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Has another iconic species been uncovered?

Published 21 Dec 2015 

Paul Hales and Roger Martin at Fan Palm Reserve.Paul Hales and Roger Martin will see if the  elusive creature has found a home at Fan Palm Reserve.  Photo by Leanne Hales.

The dense rainforest region of the Daintree may be concealing a population of the elusive Bennett’s tree kangaroo after one was recently spotted in the area.

Bush Heritage is participating in a new research project into how far south in Queensland’s Daintree River lowland forests the near threatened Bennett’s tree kangaroo may exist.

After a sighting of a juvenile close to Palm Road in the Daintree, tree roo expert and author Roger Martin visited Bush Heritage’s Fan Palm Reserve in northern Queensland to investigate the southern range of this iconic Australian marsupial.

Fan palmsFan Palms. Photo by Wayne Lawler / Ecopix

Roger is using Fan Palm Reserve to carry out preliminary fieldwork to determine whether there could be a resident population living in or near the reserve.

The work will inform efforts to protect one of the most iconic but rarely seen species of the Daintree region.

Bennett’s tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus bennettianus), Australia’s largest arboreal mammal, is only found in a relatively small area of forest (around 2,000 square 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,” says Roger Martin. “In this area, female home ranges are between six and 11ha in size.”

“We use these home range sizes to make estimates of population size in the different types of forest that Bennett’s use.”

“At this time we have no information on the size of their ranges in lowland forests and that's a question that I'm currently trying to address.”

Martin will set up camera traps on the property in an effort to confirm the presence of the rare species. He’ll be especially looking for breeding females accompanied by their young.

“If successful with this, I'll then establish transect lines, and using volunteers, systematically walk these lines 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.”

The outcomes of Roger’s research could help inform our efforts to conserve one of the most iconic species living in the rainforests of the Daintree region.