Known from 3 scientific specimens from 1984-86, the Telefomin Cuscus has rarely been seen in the wild since.
Because of this, very little is known of its ecology and behaviour. It inhabits the oak forests along the Nong River in Papua New Guinea, at altitudes of 1400-2600 m above sea level. It is named after the people of the Telefomin Valley. There are 13 existing species in the genus Phalanger, which appears to have originated in New Guinea, outside of its family’s origin in the rainforests of Australia. The Telefomin Cuscus is the most evolutionarily distinct of its genus, representing either the sister species of all previously recognised species of Phalanger or maybe an even earlier split during the evolution of the cuscuses. After an El Niño drought period, in 1998, resulting in wildfires, the only locality it was known to inhabit was destroyed. Because of this, it may be extinct. However, the region of New Guinea has not been systematically surveyed, and it is possible that small populations of Teleformin cuscus survive.
- Order: Diprotodontia
- Family: Phalangeridae
- Population: <50
- Trend: unknown
- Size: 34-44cm
Only recorded from the areas of Telefomin and Tifalmin, Papua New Guinea. Almost all of the suitable habitat in this region was destroyed by fire in the 1998 El Niño event. The species might also be found further northeast or west of the known collection localities, and its range possibly extends into Papua (Indonesia)
Habitat and Ecology
This species is found in mid-montane tropical moist oak forest, and has an altitudinal range between 1400-2600m. Little is known about its diet or habits. Local Telefol people believe the species is most abundant in rocky areas, typically making its lair among rocks instead of tree hollows.