The tiny pair has arrived at the zoo, but what exactly are they?
Kai and Aru are dusky pademelons, and they’re the only ones in the country. Dusky pademelons are miniature wallabies from Indonesia; in the wild, they live in lowland forest, shrubland and savannah on the islands. The pair is named after two of the groups of islands where their relatives are found.
The word ‘pademelon’ comes from a native Australian term meaning ‘small kangaroo from the forest’ – the species’ range used to cover Australia before introduced red foxes arrived. They have a body length up to 67 cm (26 inches), and weigh no more than 18 kilograms (40 pounds) – less than a fifth of the weight of a male kangaroo. These animals are solitary, usually only spending time near other members of the species for mating. They graze in the day, feeding on grass, leaves, fruit and plant shoots.
Brown fur, short tails and compact bodies help the mini marsupials to move quickly through vegetation and avoid detection. They have been described as having an inquisitive nature, letting people come fairly close before running away, although they’ve been seen to thump their feet on the ground like rabbits (presumably as a form of warning signal).
Mammal keepers at Chester hope that the boys will join the Europe-wide breeding programme working to increase the numbers of this endangered species. Habitat loss and hunting by humans for food mean they’re classed as vulnerable to extinction in the wild, so the duo’s job at the zoo will also involve raising awareness amongst the public.
Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals at Chester Zoo, said, “little is known about these little Indonesian kangaroos. Indeed, many people may not have even heard of a dusky pademelon before. However, Chester Zoo is committed to the conservation of threatened species and is always looking to break new ground by working with unusual, unheralded, often unknown animals and so we’re particularly pleased with the arrivals of Kai and Aru. We hope they put the fascinating species on the map and bring some needed attention to them.”
(All photos and video footage belong to Chester Zoo)