Recently gone on show in the new Wallaby Walkthrough exhibit is a family of Yellow-Footed Rock Wallabies, Petrogale xanthopus. Originating from Queensland and the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, it is one of perhaps 17 species of rock wallaby which collectively are found all across Australia.
Petrogale species are medium-sized relatives of kangaroos, standing up to 60cm tall and a maximum weight of around 13kg. They are in effect the ecological equivalent of mountain goats, being highly agile inhabitants of rocky areas. They are mostly nocturnal or crepuscular, hiding away in caves during the day and emerging at night to feed on grasses and herbs, when they may descend to lower ground to feed. As a result of this habit, and the agility with which they can escape from predators such as foxes and dingoes, they are less threatened than many Australian mammals. Only one of the species are listed as Endangered, with several more listed as Near Threatened, including the species Bristol has on show. Main threats are competition with domestic livestock, overgrazing, and changes in fire regimes.
|Female with large joey in pouch|
Rock wallabies can often be sociable, and Yellow-Footed Rock wallabies are commonly found in groups of 20 or so individuals, exceptionally as many as 100. Populations fluctuate with rainfall, and control of goats and foxes especially are beneficial to the populations.
|Joey with mother|
The animals on show at Bristol arrived as a male plus 2 females from continental zoos. Not long after they went on show, one of the females was seen to have young in the pouch, which was unexpected as the mother would not have been sent over if she was known to be carrying a youngster. The joey has now left the pouch and is “at foot” as it is called when a youngster is still reliant on the mother but no longer being carried. Hopefully this is a good omen for the breeding of rock wallabies at Bristol. Although they tend to stay in their inside quarters during the day, they can be seen through the glass. Usually they just sit quietly (except for the joey). The best time to see them outside is late in the day just before the zoo shuts.
(images are mine)