Meet Tristan, the Matschie’s tree kangaroo at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Alert. There is a teddy bear masquerading as a wild animal at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Oh, wait. That’s Tristan, the Matschie’s tree kangaroo, just being his adorable self all over his indoor and outdoor enclosures.

One look at this good-looking bachelor, with his pretty pink snout, fluffy bear ears and cozy-looking belly, and you want to pick him up, snuggle him and tuck him in bed with you. Please don’t. This guy doesn’t mind a back scratch and tail caress from Amber Callen-Ward, the lead keeper in Australia Walkabout, but he’s not too keen on your Paddington Bear daydreams.

It’s his inquisitive personality Callen-Ward likes best.

“He keeps me on my toes,” she said. “I have to have my full attention on him when we’re training. He tries to anticipate what I want him to do and sometimes he gets it right, but other times it’s not exactly what I wanted. He’s really smart. The coolest thing is to see his mind work.”

It’s snack time for the 8-year-old, 20-pound guy who knows he has to put both of his front feet up on a long tool held by Callen-Ward before he’s allowed to take his treats, which he does with his left hand. Just like humans, animals have a dominant hand.

Long carrot sticks go down the furry hatch. Plantain slices are inhaled. The snap pea is eschewed, but Tristan happily accepts a mini corn cob and scampers up to a higher tree branch, where his kernel munching sends juice arcing through the air. When he’s done, he lets the empty cob fall from his hands to the earth.

“He’s very particular about the food he gets,” Callen-Ward said. “Just like us he gets sick of getting the same things every day, so we have to switch it up.”

He likes his leaves

Matschie’s tree kangaroos, named in honor of German biologist Paul Matschie, are folivores, meaning an animal that eats leaves. Tristan gets big elm, cottonwood and willow branches along with leafy greens, vegetables and a small amount of fruit to supplement his leaf-heavy diet. And his absolute favorite noshes — almonds and peanut butter — are given to him in limited quantities thanks to their heavy caloric load.

That tail, those nails

You can’t miss Tristan’s foot-long tail or those intense-looking nails, both of which are the perks of being a tree kangaroo. His tail isn’t prehensile and the nails aren’t particularly sharp, but they help him cling to branches: “These guys are built to be pretty resilient. They can drop out of treetops 60 plus feet and be perfectly fine,” Callen-Ward said.

Just a hometown boy?

There are 14 species of tree kangaroos, two of which are found in Australia. The rest are from Papua New Guinea, which explains why Tristan’s fur is a little bit thicker. He’s made for a cloud forest where it’s more humid and a bit cooler. His indoor exhibit has a misting system to help keep up the humidity and cool him off in the summer.

New Netflix special: tree kangaroo matchmaking

Tristan came to the zoo in 2017 as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan Program, but there’s no telling how long he might stay. The zoo is a pit stop for bachelors of his ilk — if another zoo finds a good genetic match for him they’ll send for him, almost like an arranged marriage, with the hopes of procreation. But for now, this handsome gentleman is perfectly content living the single life, as his species is solitary in the wild.

Family tree

Matschie’s tree kangaroos are related to wallabies, which also live at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. They’re part of the macropod family. Tristan’s back legs aren’t as big as a wallaby, but the females of both species have pouches for babies. Tree kangaroos also have a grooming toe with a split nail on both of their back feet that they use to groom themselves.

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270