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The Indian Rope Trick

“Mythical” animal climbs “mythical” rope

Australian magician, Joel Howlett, usually raises his rope in a large, open paddock, well away from any trees or buildings.

Joel meets Zoe, a rare Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo.  Zoe, orphaned and rescued, was hand-raised by Dr Karen Coombes, Director of the Tree Roo Rescue and Conservation Centre, Malanda, Queensland.  To Zoe, Karen is her Mum.

Karen introduces Zoe to Joel’s rope.  Zoe is quite used to climbing a rope.  Her own rope can be seen in the background, draped over a branch of her favourite tree.

Zoe checks with Karen: “Are you watching, Mum?”

By erecting the magician’s rope under Zoe’s favourite tree, Joel and Karen have ensured that Zoe understands she is being invited to climb.  Joel’s rope is not attached to the tree in any way, and these images are not photo-shopped.

Up goes Zoe!  Climbing comes naturally to these beautiful creatures.

“Look, Mum, watch me go!”

This photo shoot was arranged in July 2013 with scientist, Dr Karen Coombes, the world’s leading expert on the Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo.  The photos are designed to draw attention to the plight of this rare and beautiful mammal, which is found only on the high tablelands of Far North Queensland, and is today threatened by habitat loss, dog attacks, and road traffic.  For more information, see Dr Coombes’ website:

This promotion is the latest episode in the history of a remarkable feat of magic.  Just as a tree-climbing kangaroo is sometimes said to be a myth, the Indian rope trick has been called a myth also.  It is not.  The true history of this centuries-old mystery has been greatly distorted over the past 100 years.

Here are three articles by Jim McKeague detailing the latest historical research on this trick: