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You’ve got to be lucky to see the shy black-flanked rock-wallaby, a small and extremely agile marsupial that darts among rocky outcrops and caves in central and western Australia. It emerges only at dusk to feed on grass, leaves, bark and fruits. But it’s a spectacle to behold on warm wintry days, when this gorgeous animal is sometimes glimpsed soaking up the sun's rays. It's this preference for rocky refuges that has been the key to the wallaby's survival. In some places, much of its surrounding landscape has been cleared for farming, and the rocks have afforded some protection from the foxes and cats that have decimated other Australian mammal populations. Although this rock-wallaby is still quite widespread across its range, habitat destruction, predation by foxes and feral cats, and competition for food and shelter have exacted a terrible toll. Scientists report many local extinctions and the wallaby's distribution is now greatly reduced. The populations that remain are generally small, isolated and at risk of extinction. The support of WA Government’s State NRM Program is enabling WWF-Australia to work in the Wheatbelt and in the Kimberley in partnership with Walalakoo Aboriginal Corporation and their Nyikina Mangala Rangers to protect rock-wallaby populations.
What we're doingView our projects involving the black-flanked rock-wallaby.
Why it matters
Textured pads on its hind feet, which act much like the sole of a running shoe, enable the black-flanked rock-wallaby to bound around its rocky home. It moves swiftly and confidently, its dark fur perfectly camouflaged with its surroundings. Rock-wallabies shelter during the hottest part of the day in caves and among cliffs to avoid water loss, then emerge in the early evening to graze on grass and herbs. They live in colonies, and although they rarely make a sound, scientists believe that members communicate using a complex array of behaviours and chemical signals. There’s still a lot we don't know about the wary black-flanked rock-wallaby, but we do know that its numbers are declining and that we need to act fast. While there's clearly no place like home, moving wallabies to areas of suitable habitat and keeping out predators has proven effective.
Only 50 centimetres tall.
Listed as Endangered (EPBC Act 1999) and Vulnerable (IUCN Red List).
There are five subspecies of black-flanked rock-wallaby:
- Petrogale Iateralis lateralis (black-flanked rock-wallaby) which is patchily distributed through most of Western Australia south of the Kimberley.
- Petrogale Iateralis hacketti (Recherche rock-wallaby), found only on three islands in the Archipelago of the Recherche in Western Australia.
- Petrogale Iateralis pearsoni (Pearson island rock-wallaby), found on islands off South Australia.
- Petrogale Iateralis centralis (central Australian rock-wallaby), found in central Australia (also known as warru by Traditional Owners of this region).
- Petrogale Iateralis kimberleyensis (West Kimberley rock-wallaby, black-footed rock-wallaby), found in the west Kimberley (also known as wiliji by Traditional Owners of this region).
Did you know?
The soles of its hind feet are coarse, acting much like the sole of a running shoe, providing friction and grip as the rock-wallaby bounces around the rocks at high speed.
This species is known by many names in English and traditional Indigenous Australian languages, including:black-flanked rock-wallaby, black-footed rock-wallaby, side-striped rock-wallaby, warru (or waru), bokal, moororong, kakuya , lungkarrpa, pakultarra, rukapiki, tanpa, tjinangalku, tjirti, wartilara, wokartji, arrwe or kavtetve. The Latin name, Petrogale lateralis, means ‘notable-sided rock-weasel’– although these sweet animals look nothing like a weasel, and are not even distantly related to them.
Although still found across central and south-western Australia, the black-flanked rock-wallaby has faced mounting pressures. Predation by foxes and feral cats, habitat destruction, and growing competition for food and shelter have caused many local extinctions and the rock-wallaby's distribution is now greatly reduced. Remaining populations are generally small, isolated and at risk of extinction.