Oakvale Wildlife Park will soon become the first zoological institute outside of Queensland to house a threatened species of Australian tree kangaroo.
The Salt Ash park is due to receive a pair, a male and female, of Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo at the end of January to become the first ever NSW wildlife park to keep the creatures in captivity.
“We’re really excited,” Oakvale’s curator, Lachlan Gordon, said. “This is something we've been proactively working on for best part of nine months.
“This is momentous for Oakvale, for Port Stephens, the Hunter region and NSW. It’s a chance for the public to come to appreciate this unique species.”
Up to 14 species of tree kangaroo have been identified in the world. Most are found in New Guinea but only two are native to Australia – Lumholtz’s and Bennett’s tree-kangaroo.
Both are a threatened species.
Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroos are found in the rainforest of tropical Queensland, mainly in the Atherton Tablelands. The species been in decline due to deforestation and dog attacks.
A mysterious blindness, the cause of which is unknown, has also impacted on the tree kangaroos in the past 15 years.
Aside from Tree Roo Rescue and Conservation Centre located near Cairns only a small handful of Queensland-based wildlife parks hold Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroos – Dreamworld on the Gold Coast, David Fleay Wildlife Park at Burleigh Heads, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, the Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas and Rainforestation Nature Park in Kuranda.
“Wildlife parks and zoos across Australia have tree kangaroos but they're Goodfellow's tree-kangaroo, which are a New Guinean species,” Mr Gordon said.
“A lot of Australians don't realise that we have our very own here. Because our tree kangaroos aren't readily held by zoos and wildlife parks, people don't get to see them.
“There a heavy conservation theme to this acquisition.
“We want to help educate the wider community that we have two species of tree kangaroo that are literally disappearing right in front of our eyes.
“Unless we draw some attention on these species we may lose them without the majority of Australians ever knowing they exist.”
In acquiring the tree kangaroos, Oakvale has spent the past eight to nine months collaborating with Dr Karen Coombes from Tree Roo Rescue and Conservation Centre, Dreamworld and the Zoo and Aquarium Association.
A new enclosure has been established at Oakvale, near the splash bay.
Visitors to the park will be able to walk around the enclosure and look at the roos through a glass window. Mr Gordon said the effect would be like peering into a rainforest.
The pair of Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroos will become the 11th threatened, vulnerable or endangered species to be kept and cared for at the Salt Ash park.
The tree roos will be available for the public to see in February.