Ground cuscus

Phalanger gymnotis

Order: Diprodontia

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • This species is arboreal and needs a lot of perching, but prefers to sleep in an enclosed space down low. A heated nestbox on or near the ground with bedding such as hay or blankets is appropriate.
  • Perching must be cleaned of cuscus grease often so that feet do not become irritated or split.
  • Needs a sheltered area with enough warmth.

Diet Requirements

  • This is a frugivorous/insectivorous species but also seems to enjoy browse. A mixed diet of leafeater biscuits, vegetables, greens, mealworms and crickets, fruit, and nuts is offered at San Diego Zoo. Acacia browse is eaten enthusiastically; other favorites include ferns, eucalyptus, and starflower. Mulberry is not preferred.

Veterinary Concerns

  • Issues with feet if enclosure is not clean; arthritic issues, dental issues.

Notes on Enrichment & Training

  • Browse is an excellent enrichment.


Colony or Breeding Management


Individual Identification


Programmatic Information


Temperature Guidelines



Tips on Presentation

  • They should be handheld or put down on an elevated box or branch.
  • To show off the female’s pouch, you can put her down and lift the front feet while feeding, then insert a finger into the opening of the pouch.

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

  • The cuscus should be trained to be picked up, held, and petted.
  • A tiny leash and harness is not required but is recommended, as cuscuses can move quickly if they get spooked.


Potential Messaging

  • Could be affected by the destruction of the rainforest.
  • Plastic/Styrofoam – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Conventional plastic and Styrofoam (That’s pretty much all plastic and Styrofoam.) do not biodegrade. Whether items made of these materials are thrown on the ground as litter or thrown away in the trash, they tend to end up in our rivers and oceans, each piece staying in these ecosystems for decades or centuries. Large pieces of plastic float in the water or wash up on the shore, often entangling birds, mammals, and fish and destroying coral reefs. Smaller pieces are mistaken for food and eaten by many species. Please ask zoo guests to avoid disposable plastic and Styrofoam packaging, opting for re-usable alternatives: cloth tote bags instead of plastic grocery bags, filtered tap water instead of bottled water, re-useable plastic food storage (like Rubbermaid containers) instead of Styrofoam boxes. Ask them to recycle plastic rather than throwing it away and to purchase products that are made of recycled materials. Participating in a beach or river clean-up is also a great idea.

Acquisition Information

Difficult to acquire, currently 4 in the US. Breeding populations in European zoos.

Comments from the Rating System

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Papua New Guinea. Rainforest.

Physical Description

Small marsupial with a short, dense, soft coat and a naked, rough, prehensile tail. They are gray, with a dark gray stripe down the back, and a white belly. Paws have two opposable digits. Long whiskers, small, round ears, and large, bulging, dark eyes. Very cute.

Life Cycle

One young (90% of the time, otherwise 2 joeys) is born after a gestation that research indicates may be as short as 13 days.


Highly nocturnal but can be quite active at night.

Threats and Conservation Status


Did you know…

  • hey are considered an “elder animal” by the New Guinea tribes and are not hunted for food.
  • Can be vulnerable to dogs because they nest on the ground.




Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.

Contributors and Citations

  • San Diego Zoo
  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters

Top Photo: By Drcwp1 – Own work, Public Domain,