Lumholtz tree-kangaroos of the Atherton Tableland found a champion in Karen Coombes.

Story + Photos Mandy McKeesick

There is a frenetic scratching from behind a closed door and as it opens three balls of fur erupt to climb curtains, leap onto shoulders and generally run amok. It is feeding time for these juvenile tree-kangaroos but before they settle to be bottle-fed there is plenty of delinquent teenage energy to expend.

Dr Karen Coombes runs the Tree Roo Rescue and Conservation Centre on the Atherton Tableland in Far North Queensland. “This is Ella, Misty and Bear,” she says as the three long-tailed beasts continue to bounce off furniture around her. “They’re a bit naughty. They will jump on you and try to bite, but they’re only playing.” 

Ella, Misty and Bear are Lumholtz tree-kangaroos, one of only two species endemic to Australia. The Lumholtz lives in rainforests between Cardwell and the Daintree River but predominantly on the Atherton Tableland. The second species, the Bennett’s tree-kangaroo, lives north of Daintree. Many people have never heard of a kangaroo that climbs trees and Karen often finds herself met with scepticism when she talks of them. “I’ve even been asked if I was using drugs and sitting in the rainforest too much,” she laughs. “But yeah, they do exist.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #120

Outback Magazine: August/September 2018