Kangaroos are marsupials and belong to the Family Macropodidae (i.e. big feet) that is grouped with the Potoroidae (potoroos, bettongs, rat-kangaroos) and Hypsiprymnodontidae (musky rat-kangaroo) in the Super-Family, Macropodoidea. This comprises around 50 species in
The genus Macropus includes not only the large kangaroos but a range of mid-sized macropods known collectively at wallabies or brush wallabies. The exception is the Swamp Wallaby which is in its own genus Wallabia by virtue of its different chromosome number and other features. With the advent of agriculture and pastoralism the wallabies have fared less well than the kangaroos with most species in reduced ranges since European settlement. One species, the Toolache Wallaby (Macropus greyi) is extinct. In this pattern of range contraction, the Swamp Wallaby, is again an exception as it remains reasonably abundant in many peri-urban parks and reserves.
The Wallabies like the larger Kangaroos are predominantly grazers but may take some browse, especially the Swamp Wallaby. They share a similar body form and habits to the larger Kangaroos and are sympatric with Grey Kangaroos or the Antilopine Wallaroo in the north.
Washpool National Park, New South Wales
Washpool National Park lies between Grafton and Glenn Innes with the picnic and camping areas on Coachwood Drive off the Gwydir Highway. The Washpool area is noted for vigorous interactions between forestry interests and conservation interests and this National Park reflects the latter with a diverse and relatively undisturbed forest including a large stand of coachwood trees. The Park is included in the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage area and is particularly diverse with warm temperate rainforest, interspersed with Eucalypt forest and patches of lowland subtropical, cool subtropical and dry rainforest. Most of the Park is wilderness but there are two camping areas, one (Bellbird) with drinking water, toilets, picnic tables and wood barbecues. There are three walking tracks that traverse the interesting diversity of habitat in the Park. The Park has a remarkable diversity of frogs (25 species), abundant birdlife and an exceptionally high diversity of macropods (9 species). Along with the Whiptail Wallaby you can potentially see Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Parma Wallabies, Common Wallaroos, Red-necked Wallabies, Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies, Red-necked and Red-legged Pademelons and the Swamp Wallaby.
The species is killed in Queensland in areas where it is supposedly a pest to agriculture and its fine dense fur used to make stuffed animal toys, like koalas.
The Whiptail Wallaby prefers forest with an expansive grassy understorey and so will not be found in the rainforest or densely vegetated parts of Washpool National Park. However, it typically occupies forests at the foot-slopes of mountainous and hilly regions as found along the Great Dividing Range in northern NSW and south-eastern Queensland. They range out into clear pasture but remain close to the forest edge.
Predominantly grazers with some forbs (herbs), browse and fern leaves in the diet. They favour kangaroo grass Themeda triandra and other native grasses.
The reproductive biology of the Whiptail Wallaby is another variation on the patterns found in the Brush Wallabies. The oestrous cycle is relatively long (41-44 days) and the gestation period like the larger kangaroos (34-38 d). Thus oestrus is not strictly post-partum. Pouch life is a long 9-10 months like Grey Kangaroos and young are not weaned for a further 4-6 months. Sexual behaviour has been well-described in a comprehensive field study in northern NSW. It includes the typical elements of sexual checking (sniffing the cloaca, touching the tail, blocking the female's onwards passage, clucking vocalisations), the attraction of multiple males to an oestrous female and consequent male-male competition usually resolved by the position in a dominance hierarchy that leads to more frequent mating by the alpha male of a mob.
The Whiptail Wallaby is gregarious and thus there are regular associations between the sexes.
The Whiptail Wallaby is amongst the more gregarious of the macropods with groups of six common and aggregations building to 30-50 individuals on favoured foraging areas. Groups are open in membership with individuals joining and leaving at will but males form a hierarchy through sparring matches and ascendency in this size-based hierarchy increases mating opportunities but does not ensure exclusive access to a consort.
The gregarious nature and frequent social interactions in this species make it one of the most interesting to watch over an extended period, especially when large mobs form.
Kaufmann JH (1974) Social ethology of the whiptail wallaby, Macropus parryi, in north-eastern New South Wales, Australia. Animal Behaviour 22, 281-369.
Southwell CJ, Cairns SC, Palmer R, Delaney R, Broers R (1997) Abundance of large macropods in the eastern highlands of Australia. Wildlife Society Bulletin 25, 125-132.