What a Wondiwoi world!

British photographer Michael Smith just saw the rarest species of one of the rarest types of mammals on Earth—tree kangaroos!
tree kangaroo Any species of tree kangaroo, such as this adorable fella, is a pretty rare sight confined to zoos. (© Kwiktor - Dreamstime.com)

When people hear the phrase "tree kangaroo", there are generally one of two responses.

Some people go, "OMG, I love those things! They're like rainforest teddy bears with tails!"

But, honestly? Most of us say, "What in the world is a tree kangaroo?"

That's because even if you're the type of person who thinks that kangaroos and wallabies are the coolest critters around, the tree kangaroo can be a real mystery. These animals live in rainforests in northern Queensland, Australia, and New Guinea.

Outside of zoos and sanctuaries, even people from these countries will never see one. Part of this is because they are shy, reclusive animals who live high up in trees. The other reason is that most species are either threatened or endangered. Nowhere is this more true than with the Wondiwoi tree kangaroo of New Guinea.

Assumed extinct

wondiwoi tree kangaroo

A 1936 illustration of a Wondiwoi tree kangaroo. Up until very recently, experts thought it was extinct. (Wikimedia Commons/Fair Use)

The Wondiwoi (say WAN-duh-woy) hadn't been seen by scientists since 1928. That was 90 years ago! But just this past August, the animal was photographed by a British photographer named Michael Smith. How? He was actually in New Guinea looking to photograph wild orchids. These flowers are awfully beautiful and rare on their own, but Smith found himself something even more noteworthy.

Watch a video containing his special photos below.

What else is in hiding?

The discovery of a Wondiwoi tree kangaroo doesn't exactly mean that this species is now well and thriving. As Smith himself is quoted in that video, this fellow could be the last of his kind for all that we know. But it does bring up an interesting fact about our planet and its wildlife.

There's still so much the we don't know about the creatures that we share Earth with.

Experts estimate that well over 80% of animals and plants have yet to be found. Thousands of new species are discovered every year. How is that possible?

One great unknown zone is the deep ocean. We can't seem to drop a submarine anywhere there without finding some new, strange critter. But another great unknown world is our rainforests. Dense, dark, and multi-layered, rainforest are teeming with amphibians, birds, insects, reptiles, and, yes, even mammals never seen by human eyes.

Which brings us to the following question: Is this Wondiwoi the last of his kind? Or just a clumsy fellow who accidentally blew the cover of a secret tree kangaroo super society?

We really hope it's the latter!

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