Black-flanked Rock Wallaby, Petrogale lateralis

The black-flanked rock wallaby (Petrogale lateralis) is a marsupial that is native to Australia. Its other common names include the warru and the black-footed rock wallaby.  Its range includes western, southern, and central areas of Australia, along with some islands close to the continent. Its populations are scattered across this range. It prefers a habitat within rocky areas with many types of vegetation, including temperate types. It was first discovered in 1842 by John Gould, and holds two subspecies, although there may be more.

The black-flanked rock wallaby typically has thick grey to black fur that allows it to blend in with its surroundings, although this coloration becomes lighter in the summer months. The fur becomes thicker at the tail, which is long and helps the wallaby balance. The rough soles of its feet are specialized for gripping rocks. This species lives in groups holding ten to one hundred individuals, and is active at dusk. Its diet consists of many types of vegetation, which it gathers from open, grassy areas and gives it most of the water it needs.

The breeding season for the black-footed rock wallaby relies on the abundance of rain, although it can breed year round. Females will delay the growth of joeys, or baby wallabies, if conditions are not suitable for rearing young. After a pregnancy of thirty days, the joey is born within its mother’s pouch, where it will remain until it is fully developed. Once the joey is ready to leave the pouch, its mother will feed it in a hidden area, which is a distinct trait of this species. Sexual maturity is reached at one or two years of age.

The black-flanked rock wallaby is threatened by predation from foxes and feral cats, habitat destruction due to herding of sheep and other animals, and changes in regular fire patterns. It does occur in some protected areas and conservation efforts include fox population control and captive breeding programs. This species is listed as “Vulnerable” by the Australian Commonwealth Government’s Department of Environment and Water Resources and appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Near Threatened.”

Image Caption: Black-footed Rock-wallaby (Petrogale lateralis), Australia. Credit: Thomas Schoch/Wikipedia  (CC BY-SA 2.5)