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Celebrate Tree Kangaroo Awareness Day with new photos of joey Havam!

Posted by Stephen Reed, Communications
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Havam, a male joey was born last August to mom Omari and dad Rocket.

We're celebrating our five Matschie’s tree kangaroos, Rocket, Elanna, Omari, Keweng and Havam every day, but especially on Saturday, May 29 for Tree Kangaroo Awareness Day! Tree Kangaroo Awareness Day spotlights endangered tree kangaroos and the important role they play in their ecosystem.

The five tree kangaroos, who currently live in a habitat that is off-view from the public at Woodland Park Zoo, enjoy snacking on yams, arugula, swiss chard, corn and dandelion greens. Elanna is described as “sassy” and “cheeky” by her animal keepers and Keweng, Elanna’s daughter, has inherited some of her mother’s personality. Omari and her son Havam are more laid-back and settled. Rocket, the father of Havam and Keweng, is more hesitant to try new things, but he loves to dig into yams and carrots.

His name is Havam which is the word for “tree kangaroo” in one of the many languages of the YUS Conservation Area in Papua New Guinea, home to wild and endangered Matschie’s tree kangaroos.

Woodland Park Zoo has cared for more than 20 joeys (baby tree kangaroos) born at the zoo since 1987 and has played an important role in husbandry for the tree kangaroo population in accredited zoos. One of the first husbandry manuals for caring for tree kangaroos was written by Woodland Park Zoo staff. Woodland Park Zoo also started the Tree Kangaroo Saving Animals From Extinction program (Tree Kangaroo SAFE) through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Tree Kangaroo SAFE links zoos and aquariums to field efforts that are focused on protecting tree kangaroo populations in the wild. Five SAFE working groups focus on conservation commerce, sustainability in zoo and wild populations, One Health, research, and engagement and awareness. The SAFE team is in the midst of developing a three-year plan to ensure these furry tree dwellers thrive.

“Not only are they kangaroos, but kangaroos who live in trees. I find them fascinating because marsupials have a very different biology than other mammals,” said Lead Animal Keeper Beth Carlyle-Askew. “We are doing diet research to feed them the best foods in the best way to mirror the way they eat in the wild. Better husbandry means healthier animals who exhibit natural behaviors. Staff at Woodland Park Zoo literally wrote the book on caring for these fascinating creatures.”

The zoo is also the U.S. base for the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program (TKCP), which works with communities in Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) YUS Conservation Area, named for the Yopno, Uruwa and Som rivers. As of a year ago, TKCP in PNG is now fully staffed by Papua New Guineans who work with local communities to protect tree kangaroos and develop industries that support livelihoods while conserving natural resources. In partnership with Seattle-based Caffe Vita, TKCP brings coffee beans grown in the YUS Conservation Area to market in the United States. Every bag of coffee sold helps support efforts in Papua New Guinea to protect tree kangaroos and their habitat.

“I came to Woodland Park Zoo in 1987 as a graduate student at the University of Washington in animal behavior searching for an appropriate species to study,” said TKCP Founder and Senior Conservation Scientist for Woodland Park Zoo Lisa Dabek, PhD. “Two female tree kangaroos had joeys in their pouch and the Lead Animal Keeper at the time said no one knew anything about tree kangaroo mother-young behavior or joey development. I fell in love with them quickly because they are so cute and different. They are true kangaroos but adapted for life in the rain forest. They are also endangered so I felt we had to conserve them. I flew to Papua New Guinea (PNG) to find out how I could help them in the wild. I partnered with local communities to launch the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program which has now worked with the government of PNG to create the first and only protected area of its type in the country.”

Wholly owned by local people and with support of the PNG government for long-term protection, the YUS landscape consists of 390,000 acres of land pledged for conservation as well as areas for mixed-use in a landscape approach to a protected area. TKCP has partnered with local communities for a five-year, multi-partner USAID Biodiversity program grant funded via Cardno International Development leveraging the experiences and lessons learned in establishing and managing the country’s first Conservation Area.

You can help tree kangaroos in the wild and at Woodland Park Zoo by visiting the zoo, purchasing Caffe Vita Papua New Guinea coffee or visiting