Adelaide Zoo’s native keeper, Kate Fielder has answered a few of our questions about this cute marsupial.
By Jessica Wilkinson
The yellow-footed rock-wallaby (which used to be known as the ring-tailed wallaby) is part of the marsupial family that includes kangaroos, wallabies, tree-kangaroos, and wallaroos. This particular type of wallaby is a little bit special due to its distinctive patterning. Its fur is light grey and its forearms, hind legs and feet range from a rich orange colour to a light yellow.
We wanted to know a little more about what makes the yellow-footed rock-wallaby special so we spoke to Adelaide Zoo’s native keeper, Kate Fielder. Kate has answered a few of our questions about the cute marsupial – like what they eat, how high they can jump and what makes them different from regular wallabies. We even learned that while their droppings look like chocolate, you really shouldn't eat them.
Get to know Australia's yellow-footed rock-wallabies
Is the wallaby actually yellow-footed?
"Yes, it does have yellow feet! It also has yellow-orange arms, ears, stripes on the table and around the eyebrow area is also yellow-orange."
What makes them different from regular wallabies?
"Yellow-footed rock-wallabies are one of the most colourful members of the kangaroo family and the largest of the rock wallabies. Rock wallabies are master climbers. They have granular pads on the soles of their feet which make it easy for them to grip on to rock surfaces, so they can jump up rocks and not slip off."
How many different types of wallabies are there?
"There are about 30 species of wallabies spread right across Australia, and many of those also have several sub-species."
Where can you see one in the wild?
"They can be quite tricky to spot in the wild, but if you are patient and are an early bird or late-night type of person, you might be lucky enough to see them in the Flinders and Gawler Ranges of South Australia. There is also a few small populations in the hills of far-western New South Wales and the hills of South-western Queensland."
What do they eat?
"Almost anything it can in the harsh outback environment it calls home. Grasses, leaves and bark are all on the menu for the yellow-footed rock-wallaby. They will drink water if available but can survive for much of the year without water by obtaining it from their food."
Do they have enemies?
"Unfortunately, they do have a few enemies. Introduced foxes and cats will prey upon yellow-footed rock-wallabies, as will the wedge-tailed eagle. Goats, rabbits and sheep will steal their food. At one time, humans hunted yellow-footed rock-wallabies for their pretty pelts."
How are they doing in the wild?
"Back in the early 1980’s the yellow-footed rock-wallaby was declining rapidly in numbers and considered as being vulnerable to extinction. Today, they are listed as 'near threatened' on the IUCN red list, but the populations in New South Wales are considered endangered. They remain a protected species, and with the help of recovery programs and reintroduction programs, some populations are holding steady or steadily increasing."
Can you touch them in the wild?
"Good luck! This species is incredibly fast, nimble and can scale the highest of cliffs. If you are touching one in the wild, it is probably either sick or injured."
Are their droppings pellets?
"Yes! Their droppings look like small little round chocolate balls (do not eat them), called pellets."
How big are they?
"They are the largest of all the rock wallaby species but are a slender animal, with females averaging around 6-7 kilograms and males 8-10 kilograms."
How old do they get?
"In the wild, the yellow-footed rock-wallaby can live to around 10 years old and more than 14 years old in captivity."
How many babies can a mother wallaby have?
"Yellow-footed rock-wallabies are super mums! At any one time, a female yellow-foot can have three to four joeys that she is caring for. This species has what is called embryonic diapause, which means they have a fertilised embryo ready and waiting while they have another joey in the pouch. If that joey doesn’t survive, the embryo will start developing straight away. 30 days later, she will give birth and be mated by a male, all within approximately 24 hours. If it does survive, she will give birth to the next joey when the oldest is about six and a half months old. The eldest will then be encouraged by mum that it is time to leave her pouch. This out-of-pouch joey will continue to stick its head in the pouch for a drink until it’s about one year old. This means a mum can be caring for a fertilised embryo in stasis, have a joey in the pouch and one to two joeys out of pouch still drinking. They definitely have their hands full!"
Are they active at night?
"Yellow-footed rock-wallabies are not strictly nocturnal, it depends on the season. Coming from a hot arid region, in summer they tend to be more active before and after sunrise so they can find a cool shady cave during the hot days. In winter, they may come out during the day to find a nice sunny spot and grab a bite to eat."
How high can they jump?
"Yellow-footed rock-wallabies are impressive jumpers and can jump approximately two and a half times their height in one leap! They can even use the side of cliffs to propel themselves and scale almost vertical cliffs."
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