By Jordanna Dulaney
The tenkile, or the Scott’s tree kangaroo (Dendrolagus scottae) could be a cross between a koala bear and a puppy. With it’s fuzzy dark fur, long tail and snout, and tiny ears, it’s difficult to imagine a more adorable animal. It’s also difficult to imagine that the tenkile is one of the most endangered species on Earth: only an estimated 300 remain.
According to the Tenkile Conservation Alliance (TCA), the tenkile’s trouble stems from a sharp increase of human settlements in the Torricelli mountain range. Once relatively isolated, the tenkile now struggles to avoid hunters and towns while still having sufficient range to live in. The TCA also suggests the cultural shift in Papua New Guinea’s Torricelli natives could contribute to the animal's decline: an influx of Catholic missionaries lead to a mass conversion of many of the natives. While the tenkile’s habitat was traditionally off limits for hunting for fear of spirits, the natives now hunt there regularly; instead of bows and arrows, they use guns.
Euan Ritchie, an ecology lecturer at Deakin University in Queensland, has united with the Tenkile Conservation Alliance to begin a camera survey in Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Torricelli Mountains, where the tenkile and other critically endangered animals persist. As the first comprehensive wildlife camera trap study in the Torricelli range, the joint study endeavors to estimate population numbers and habitat of the tenkile, as well as other critically endangered species to discover their population numbers and habits.
Euan Ritchie spoke to Mongabay.com about the tenkile's decline, and his new project to conserve the species. More....