Scientific name: Petrogale xanthopus
Conservation Status: Near Threatened

Appearance

Rock WallabyThe Yellow-footed rock wallaby is the largest of all the rock wallabies. Their fur is fawn and grey on the top and underneath they are white and have yellow forearms and feet. The fur is long and silky. They have a dark brown stripe down their back. They have long ears which have yellow hair on the outside surface.

The most striking feature of the yellow-footed rock wallaby is its tail which is very long and yellow. It has ornamental rings all the way down it, and is used by the wallaby for hopping and balance.

A fully grown adult measure about 1 to 1.3 metres (head-body length 480 to 650 mm and tail length 570 to 700 mm) and will usually weigh between 6-12 kilograms.

Lifespan

The lifespan of the yellow-footed rock wallaby is 12-18 years.

Diet

The yellow-footed rock wallaby is herbivorous so its diet consists of grass, vegetables, bark, twigs, fruits and hay. During times of drought they will browse on shrubs and trees. It is sometimes hard for them to get food because they have to compete with herbivores that have been introduced to their habitat such as goats and sheep who eat the same type of diet.

Habitat

They are found mainly in the Flinders Ranges, also in the Gawler and Barrier ranges in South Australia. Small populations of them are also found in New South Wales and Queensland.

They inhabit dry, semi-arid regions and rocky outcrops. They don’t usually live near humans as they prefer a harsh, rocky environment.

Reproduction

The yellow-footed rock wallaby can breed at any time of the year when conditions are good (plenty of food and rainfall). They have a gestation period of about 30-32 days and usually only produce one offspring each year. The new joey is about 12-19 mms (1/2 to 3/4 of an inch) long. It will then pull itself along its mothers fur into the pouch. At between 6-7 months the joey will leave the pouch and the mother will leave it on a rocky outcrop while she goes to feed and will then come back to suckle the joey. They are the only mammals that transfer water from their mouths to their joeys.

Social life

Colony sizes are much smaller now than they used to be and this is mainly due to their isolation and habitat destruction. They also have to compete with introduced animals such as goats, sheep and rabbits which survive on the same diet as them. They also have many predators such as foxes, dingoes and wedge tail eagles. The colonies generally consist of one or two males, several adult females and also their offspring.

The yellow-footed rock wallaby has some physical features and behaviour traits that allow them to survive in the harsh environment that they live in. To survive on the rocky areas that they live in they have strong back legs and a long tail to balance with on the steep slopes. The soles of their feet also help them to get extra grips on the rocks.

The rocky areas provide shady areas, cool caves and ledges that they can shelter in or on when it is hot, they also feed at night especially in summer to stay out of the heat and also conserve water.

The yellow-footed rock wallaby is able to put their gestation “on hold” during a drought to give the joey the best chance to survive. This means that they really “store” the baby until the conditions are better. The female can then have a joey at foot (already out of the pouch but still suckling), one in the pouch and one in the womb. She can produce two different types of milk to care for the different joeys.

Quick facts

They are also known as the ring tailed wallaby.

They used to be hunted for their skins which were exported overseas.

When the young leave the pouch they don’t get in and out like other kangaroos do, but are left by their mothers while she goes to get food.

They are the only mammal reported to transfer water from their mouths to their young at foot joeys.