Dingiso or bondegezou (Dendrolagus mbaiso),
The dingiso is a tree-kangaroo native and endemic to Western New Guinea of Indonesia, where it lives in alpine rainforests in the rugged Tembagapura and Kwiyawagi mountains of the Sudirman Range at elevations of 2700-4200 m, just below the tree line (4).
Dr Tim Flannery discovered the dingiso in 1994 and Flannery and Alexandra Szalay formally described it in 1995 (3). It was first filmed for the BBC documentary South Pacific in 2009. Dendrolagus derives from two Greek words meaning tree hare; European scientists in the 19th century thought the meat tasted like that of hares (7). Flannery gave the dingiso the scientific name mbaiso meaning 'forbidden animal' in the local Moni language. As Moni tribesmen do not hunt the dingiso due to their belief that dingisos are ancestral spirits, it was hoped that this name would deter neighbouring people, who do not hold these beliefs, from hunting this marsupial (5).
The dingiso has a long tail, well-developed hindquarters and moves both hindfeet at the same time in a distinctive gait (4,6). The soles of its large feet bear cushion-like pads covered with roughened skin which, in combination with the curved nails, provide proficient grip on tree trunks and branches (4). The long, furry tail helps it balance as it moves through the trees and braces it as it climbs (4). The fairly long fur is largely black, apart from white markings on the underparts and face (4).
It is comfortable on the ground in rugged areas and spends little time in the trees. It is likely to be an agile animal, which can move quickly from tree to tree, leap up to 9 m downwards to a neighbouring trunk and jump to the ground from heights of 18 m or more, without sustaining injury. It descends tree trunks backwards and moves along the ground with small leaps. It is active day and night. It is very docile. It forages for leaves and fruit in the trees and on the rainforest floor. It is likely to have no defined mating season and probably gives birth to a single young after a gestation period of @ 32 days. The tiny, highly undeveloped young has its eyes, hindlimbs and tail barely formed and only the forelimbs are sufficiently developed, allowing the hairless young to climb up its mother's fur into the safety of her pouch. The pouch has 4 teats and provides a warm, humid environment where the juvenile, unable to regulate its own temperature, attaches itself to one of its mother's teats and feeds on the nutritious milk as it grows and develops. A captive emerged from its mother's pouch after 305 days (4).
The dingiso remains common in the west due to the protection conferred on it by the Moni people. For many Moni, it is an ancestor which must never be harmed. Local Moni tribesmen say that when a dingiso is approached, it sits up, whistles and raises its paws as if greeting. Scientists think this is a threat display, but the Moni believed that the dingiso was the spirit of an ancestor who recognised them (5). The dingiso is very rare. The Red List Category is Endangered or Vulnerable (8). The dingiso's ongoing, drastic population decline is suspected to be over 50% over the last three generations (i.e., 30 years). This is due to increasing human activities (agriculture, hunting for food and loss of habitat). The western-most parts of the population are currently secure due to traditional beliefs, but if those change, the species could very quickly slip towards extinction. Climate change poses a long-term threat for this sub-alpine species; it has allowed different agricultural practices to occur. tion In the western parts of the range the species is still protected by tradition, but in the eastern parts it has undergone major declines due to increasing human population and loss of habitat. Climate change also poses a long-term threat for this sub-alpine species; already it is allowing changes in agricultural practices. A period of dry weather in 1997-1998 led to huge areas of New Guinea forests being burnt (7). Tree kangaroos suffer from flourishing human populations and increased efficiency of hunters, aided by steel axes, bush knives, modern firearms and a rise in the number of roads by which they can access more remote forest (7). The low reproductive rate of tree kangaroos makes them highly vulnerable as the number of deaths due to hunting may outnumber births (7). Tree kangaroos are threatened by deforestation and forest degradation; logging is expanding and is highly destructive to the land's biodiversity (7). The dingiso is not present in any protected areas.
- 1. Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 60. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.
- 2. Leary T, Seri L, Wright D, Hamilton S, Helgen K, Singadan R, Menzies J, Allison A, James R, Dickman C, Aplin K, Flannery T, Martin R & Salas L (2008). Dendrolagus mbaiso. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 2008-10-15. Listed as Critically Endangered (CR A2cd v3.1)
- 3. Flannery, T. F., Boeadi, and A. L. Szalay. (1995). A new tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus: Marsupialia) from Irian Jaya, Indonesia, with notes on ethnography and the evolution of tree-kangaroos. Mammalia 59:1 65-84.
- 4. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
- 5. Tidwell, J. (2007) High on Kangaroos. Zoogoer, 3(3): 1 - .
- 6. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- 7. Martin, R. (2005) Tree-kangaroos of Australia and New Guinea. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne
- 8. 1.IUCN Red List (April, 2011 http://www.iucnredlist.org)
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