MALE TREE ‘ROO, TRISTAN, IS MOVING NORTH TO HELP SAVE HIS RARE, ENDANGERED AND ELUSIVE SPECIES – On Wed., Sept. 20, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s 8-year-old male Matschie’s tree kangaroo, Tristan, hopped onto I-25 in Colorado Springs and headed north to Denver with one of his new keepers. Tristan’s mission? To help save his endangered species by wooing Pearl, a female Matschie’s tree kangaroo who moved to Denver Zoo earlier this summer. With his pointy ears, bulbous pink nose, muscular tail and super-soft chocolate-and-caramel-colored fur, how could she resist?
Safe in his crate and fully awake for the journey, Tristan embarked on an adventure that his keepers at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (CMZoo) and Denver Zoo (DZ) hope will result in a perfect pouch bundle of joy for his future partner, Pearl.
CMZoo and DZ – and Tristan and Pearl – are working together to help protect the existence of the endangered arboreal marsupial species. Only about 2,500 Matschie’s tree kangaroos remain in the wild in their only known habitat: the Huon Peninsula of northeastern Papua New Guinea. Threatened by logging and mining exploration, the Matschie’s tree kangaroo is considered endangered by the International Union for the Conservancy of Nature (IUCN).
The neighboring Colorado zoos support the Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is led by members throughout the Association of Zoos and Aquariums network. SSPs track genetics of animals in human care and make recommendations for future breeding based on those genetics. The goal is to create the most genetically diverse population of animals in human care possible. The rest is up to the keepers who work to welcome the animals to healthy and calm environments, then introduce potential partners.
“Tristan has been preparing for this moment for months,” said Amber Callen-Ward, lead keeper in Australia Walkabout at CMZoo. “We have been working with him on voluntarily entering his crate and staying calm and comfortable in his crate while we move him around. We want to make this move as low stress for Tristan and his keeper teams as possible. We have high hopes and total faith in our colleagues at Denver Zoo, and although there’s no guarantee Tristan and Pearl will have babies, we owe it to them and their wild counterparts to try.”
Tristan is making a permanent move to DZ on a breeding recommendation with Pearl, who moved to DZ earlier this summer. Tristan moved to CMZoo in 2017, where he’s been playing an important role of raising awareness and helping guests learn how to protect his wild counterparts.
Tristan will continue playing that important role as an ambassador at DZ’s Australia-themed experience, Down Under, slated to open in 2024. Anchored by an enchanting Wallaby Walkthrough, this immersive exhibit will feature some of Australia’s most unique and charismatic species, including Bennett’s wallaby, red kangaroo, tree kangaroo and cassowary. Water-wise landscaping will echo the animals’ home turf; and woven seamlessly throughout the entire experience will be authentic original multimedia artworks telling the story of First Nations peoples.
“This is the first time Denver Zoo has had tree kangaroos, so it’s very exciting for us to have Pearl and Tristan in our care,” said Marcia Salverson, Assistant Curator of Pavilions at Denver Zoo. “It will be wonderful for our members and guests to be able to see the two types of macropod species when Down Under opens next year—the ground-dwelling wallabies and arboreal tree kangaroos.”
For the first time, Tristan and Pearl will have the opportunity to contribute to the future of their species. They will be introduced for breeding when the time is right. Long term, the two ‘roos will live separately, and rotate between their indoor and outdoor habitats separately. Tree kangaroos are solitary in the wild, so this setup mimics that for them in human care.
While DZ supports the SSP’s recommendation to breed and raise young, CMZoo will continue to support the SSP as a ‘holding institution,’ which means they care for members of the species that don’t have a breeding recommendation at the time. Still, just as Tristan did for many years at CMZoo, future Matschie’s tree kangaroos that call Colorado Springs home will help inspire and educate visitors, who may otherwise have never known about this incredibly rare species. CMZoo plans to welcome a female tree ‘roo soon.
About Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Society was founded in 1926. Today, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, America’s mountain Zoo, offers comprehensive education programs, exciting conservation efforts and truly fantastic animal experiences. In 2023, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was voted #4 Best Zoo in North America and CMZoo’s Rocky Mountain Wild was named #2 Best Zoo Exhibit in North America by USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. It is Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s goal to help guests fall in love with animals and nature, and take action to protect them. Since 2008, CMZoo’s Quarters for Conservation program has raised more than $4.5 million dedicated to frontline conservation efforts around the world. Of the 238 zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of just a few operating without tax support. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo depends on admissions, membership dues, special event attendance and donations for funding.