Last semester I had the pleasure and privilege to work with the Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus lumholtzi; “LTK”) for my directed research project at the SFS Center for Rainforest Studies in Australia. My project focused on the scent-marking behaviors displayed by a rehabilitated male during his release stage. Through this work I learned of an International Tree Kangaroo conference being held in Krefeld, Germany. Fellow SFS Australia alum Veronika and I were asked to join the conference and present our work.
After being home from Australia for only 2 weeks, I left and started another adventure. I arrived a day early for the 3-day conference; however, I was immediately greeted and welcomed by the Zoo Krefeld director, Dr. Wolfgang Dreßen. I joined in on their GSMP (Global Species Management Plan) for the Goodfellow Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus goodfellow, “GTK”). The GTK is one of 10 species with such a management plan, which helps zoos coordinate conservation breeding among other things. The GTK is not from Australia like the LTK, but rather is a Tree Kangaroo found in New Guinea. While both LTKs and GTKs are tree kangaroos they are visually strikingly different – unlike the tan and black fur of the LTK, GTKs have a gorgeous yellow and orange fur with two stripes running down their back and stripes on their long tail.
Afterwards, I was given an exclusive backstage access to the zoo’s GTKs: Wanko, Belisi, and Belisi’s unnamed joey. My tour was led by the dedicated Tree Kangaroo keeper, Thomas, who demonstrated his deep connection to these animals, sharing information on these mysterious creatures with me.
On the first official day of the conference we were driven to the Krefeld City Hall where the Mayor gave an inspiring speech on the importance of conservation. We then signed the official guest book and were given a lovely book on the city of Krefeld. We returned back to the Zoo where we began the meeting.
For the next several days there were many speakers from all over the world giving interesting lectures from Tree Kangaroo immunology to pouch checking. I listened intently and did my best to soak in the all the knowledge being shared. Everyone in attendance had a great passion for tree kangaroos and was eager to help each other out. We were quite spoiled as Wolfgang and his team provided us with delicious German pastries throughout the day and wonderful meals, which we ate while sitting next to and observing the Zoo’s meerkats, Asian elephants, and black rhinos.
There was a familiar face at the conference – Margit. I had stayed with her sister, Karin, during my semester in Australia during our homestay and mid-semester break. I continued to build our friendship as I conducted research involving their LTK, Nelson, on their rainforest property. It was wonderful to catch up with her and see how she was doing. Margit was attending the conference as she operates a B&B called Lumholtz’s Lodge, but more importantly because she is an animal carer and has hand-raised dozens of orphaned Tree Kangaroos.
During one of our spectacular dinners, the conference put on a raffle and silent auction for tree kangaroo and other animal-related goodies. While I wasn’t lucky enough to get an item, the fundraiser raised over 800 euros. The money was split between Margit, so that she may continue doing wonderful work rehabilitating Tree Kangaroos, and Dr. Lisa Dabek, a senior conservation scientist at the Woodland Park Zoo. Lisa has been researching Tree Kangaroos in Papua New Guinea and started the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program, where they have done amazing work.
I learned so much from this conference and met so many wonderful people. I am so very thankful for this opportunity and would like to thank my research advisor Dr. Sigrid Heise-Pavlov, the School for Field Studies Center for Rainforest Studies, and my home institution Smith College.
Ich liebe Baumkängurus!
-Amber Osterman (Smith College – SFS-CRS Wet 2018)