Roger Williams Zoo announces birth of endangered kangaroo

PROVIDENCE – Staff at the Roger Williams Park Zoo had a secret to keep since June 27 after the zoo had welcomed the birth of a rare and endangered species of tree kangaroo.

But on Christmas Eve the zoo made the announcement that its newest arrival, a Matschie’s tree kangaroo named Paia, was born to her mother, Keweng.

Paia, which can be translated to “fire” in Tok Pisin, the creole language spoken throughout Papua New Guinea from where the species is native, “was named after her mom’s feisty personality,” according to the zoo’s announcement first posted to its Facebook page.

Native to the mountainous rainforests of Papua New Guinea, the “critically endangered” species grows to between 1 and 3 feet in height and weighs up to 15 pounds, sustaining on a diet of sweet potatoes, apples, broccoli, bananas, grapes and celery, and can make tree-to-tree jumps of 30 to 45 feet.

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“Well-adapted for life in the forest canopy these small arboreal marsupials are built for climbing,” according to the RWPZ website. “With powerful limbs, long-gripping claws, and a long tail for balance, they can easily maneuver from branch to branch. Despite their impressive abilities, they spend 60% of their time sleeping.”

Roger Williams Park Zoo participates along with dozens of other zoos in the Tree Kangaroo Species Survival Plan, a field conservation plan founded in 1996 that “focuses on breeding to ensure the survival of this endangered species,” according to the social media post. Currently, less than 2,500 Matschie’s tree kangaroos live in the wild.

Visitors hoping to watch Paia flying solo may have to wait. The tree kangaroo “will continue to send a lot of time in her mom’s pouch,” the zoo said, but “will grow more independent and begin to explore on her own.”

But you might “catch a glimpse of her popping her head out,” the zoo said.

Christopher Allen is a PBN staff writer. You may contact him at Allen@PBN.com.