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Australia’s famous endangered Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo becomes a dad

Donna Coutts, August 6, 2020 7:00PM Kids News

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Makaia the Goodfellow's tree-kangaroo. Picture: Wildlife Reserves Singapore media_cameraMakaia the Goodfellow's tree-kangaroo. Picture: Wildlife Reserves Singapore


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Adelaide Zoo’s ‘world-first’ tree-kangaroo with three mums has become a dad.

Makaia, an endangered Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo, made news around the world in 2014 when the then five-week-old orphaned joey was kept alive by cross-fostering — being transferred to a wallaby’s pouch.

Now, five years later, Makaia, who moved to Singapore Zoo in 2016 as part of a Global Species Management Plan, has become a father, meaning there is one more of this endangered species in the world.

Makaia and Nupela — who came to Singapore from Taronga Zoo in Sydney, NSW — are now parents to a male joey.

When tree-kangaroos are born after a gestation* of about 40 days, they are still in an embryonic* state. This newest joey was born on February 4. The jelly bean-sized newborn then crawled into his mother’s pouch. After eight months, he has now emerged* into the world.

The male joey on media_cameraKeepers conduct a pouch check on Nupela and her joey on June 11 to ensure the young one was developing well. Picture: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Speaking about the new arrival, Mark Smith, Curator at Adelaide Zoo said: “We are delighted to learn that Makaia has gone on to become a father. Huge congratulations to Makaia and everyone at Singapore Zoo.”

Saving even one tiny Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo is very important.

Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroos inhabit the rainforests of New Guinea. A distant relative of the kangaroo and wallaby, the species lives in trees and rarely descends* to the ground. Distinguishable* by its striking back stripe, the Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo is classified by the IUCN* as endangered in the wild due to overhunting and loss of habitat.

Dr Cheng Wen-Haur of Wildlife Reserves Singapore said: “In these uncertain times, the birth of this Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo is certainly a ray of light for the Global Species Management Plan. Such programs enable zoos the world over to breed threatened species in a scientific and co-ordinated manner to achieve demographic* and genetic sustainability. Together with conservation efforts in the animals’ natural habitats, these breeding programs help to ensure the survival of the species.”

Nupela gave birth earlier this year on 4 February and her care team witnessed the baby crawl into the safety of mum’s pouch. Although a first-time mother, Nupela is a natural and her instincts see her regularly cleaning her pouch and grooming her little one who is growing fast. PHOTO CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE media_cameraNupela and the new male joey. Picture: Wildlife Reserves Singapore

Sadly, Makaia’s biological mum Kia died when a tree fell in November 2014, when Makaia was only five weeks old. There are so few Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroos left that the only way to try to keep Makaia alive was to cross-foster him with another species.

“Cross-fostering is a technique that Adelaide Zoo began pioneering in the 1990s and involves the transfer of endangered joeys to the pouch of a surrogate mother of a different wallaby species,” Mr Smith said.

“Although Zoos SA had success with cross-fostering wallaby species the technique had never been used on a tree-kangaroo.”

Tiny Makaia was transferred to the pouch of a yellow-footed rock-wallaby named Missy Fitton.

“Tree-kangaroos are distant relatives of wallabies but they have many behavioural and physical differences. We had no idea if the yellow-footed rock-wallaby would accept the tree-kangaroo joey, but if we wanted to save the joey we had to try our luck. Fortunately it worked.”

Makaia stayed with his wallaby mum for about three and a half months until he became too big for her pouch. Then his third mum, keeper Gayl Males, took over caring for him until his big move to Singapore in 2016.

Baby animals at Adelaide Zoo. Goodfellow's tree kangarooo baby. Picture: Marschall Michael media_cameraA precious Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo joey pops its head out of its mother’s pouch in 2011 at Adelaide Zoo. Picture: Marschall Michael


  • gestation: the time while a foetus before birth
  • embryonic: relating to an embryo, or foetus, before a baby is born
  • emerged: came out from somewhere
  • descends: goes down
  • distinguishable: able to be distinguished or seen as different
  • IUCN: International Union for Conservation of Nature
  • demographic: relating to the structure of a population


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  1. What does IUCN stand for?
  2. Where do Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroos live in the wild?
  3. Why is it important to breed this species in captivity?
  4. How does the joey get to the pouch after it is born?
  5. Who is Missy Fitton?


1. Write a Lullaby
A lullaby is a special song for babies to help to calm them and help them fall asleep. Write the words for a very special lullaby for the new baby joey. Your lullaby should be about how and why he is so special. If you want, use the tune of a lullaby that you might know or make one up!

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science

2. Extension
The breeding program that helped Makaia to become a father is an important one to help save the endangered tree-kangaroos. Can you think of other things that should be done to help endangered species to survive? Think of as many ideas as you can. Use your ideas to create a Plan of Action poster. The purpose of your poster is to help other kids understand what needs to be done to help endangered species like the Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Communication Design, Science

Proper Noun Police
A proper noun is a noun that names a particular person, place or thing. It always has a capital letter.

How many proper nouns can you find within this article? Find them all and sort them into the category of name, place, time (date/month).

Can you find any proper nouns included in your writing?

What are they?

Can you sort them into their categories?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Name Makaia and Nupela’s new joey.
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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