Banded hare-wallaby (Lagostrophus fasciatus)

Also known as: munning
  
French: Wallaby-lièvre À Bandes, Wallaby-lièvre Rayé
Spanish: Canguro-liebre Rayado
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderDiprotodontia
FamilyMacropodidae
GenusLagostrophus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 40 – 45 cm (2)
Tail length: 35 – 40 cm (2)
Average weight: 1.3 – 2.1 kg (2)
Maximum male weight: 2.5 kg (2)
Maximum female weight: 3.0 kg (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The banded hare-wallaby is the only survivor of a group of at least 20 ‘short faced kangaroos’ (subfamily Sthenurinae) that once existed across Australia. However, the distinctive transverse dark stripes on the lower back of this grey-furred wallaby, for which the species gets its common name, led to its original (erroneous) description in 1699 as ‘a sort of raccoon’ (4). The thick shaggy grizzled grey fur is otherwise speckled with yellow and silver, and shades to pale grey on the underbelly (4) (5). Two subspecies are recognised: Lagostrophus fasciatus albipilis, which is now considered to be extinct (2), was more reddish in colour with less pronounced stripes and a bigger hair crest on the head, than the remaining subspecies Lagostrophus fasciatus fasciatus. The snouts of both are normally hairless and short (6).

The banded hare-wallaby was formerly found across south-western Australia, but now remains only on the islands of Dorre and Bernier in Shark Bay, 50 to 60 kilometres off Western Australia, having last been recorded on the mainland in 1906 (6) (7). This species also occurred historically on Dirk Hartog Island, south of Dorre Island and Bernier Island, but is thought to have died out there in the 1920s, and reintroduction attempts have so far been unsuccessful (6) (7). A small, introduced population now occurs on Faure Island.

On the mainland the banded hare-wallaby inhabited prickly thickets on the flats and the edges of swamps (7). On the islands, the species lives in woodlands with thick, dense shrubs, particularly those dominated by thorny Acacia ligulata scrub, being dependent upon these dense thickets for shelter (4) (6) (7).

Unlike other hare-wallabies, this species is sociable, often congregating in small groups. During the day, these groups shelter in ‘runs’ formed beneath dense scrub, and emerge only at night to feed on grasses and shrubs, usually in open areas with scattered shelter (2) (5) (6). Adults of each sex appear to live in well-defined home ranges or territories, and interactions between males are characterised by high levels of aggression, thought to be related to competition for food (2).

Although sexual maturity is reached at one year of age, breeding does not usually take place until the second year (5). Young may be born anywhere between December and September, after a gestation that appears to last several months (2) (5). Females usually raise one young each year, although it is possible to produce two young in a season (5). Young spend about six months in their mother’s pouch and are weaned around three months later (2).

The disappearance of the banded hare-wallaby on the Australian mainland is thought to be the combined result of clearing of vegetation for agriculture, competition for food with introduced sheep and rabbits, and predation by introduced predators such as cats (6) (7). Although these factors have caused a dramatic decline in numbers of the banded hare-wallaby, causing their extinction on the mainland, those that remain on the uninhabited islands of Dorre and Bernier thankfully remain relatively secure (6).

Unfortunately, attempts made to reintroduce this species to Dirk Hartog Island in the 1970s and to Peron Peninsula at Shark Bay in 2001, failed. Cat predation played an important part in these failures, as well as intensive browsing by sheep and goats, and a period of drought over the summer of 1979/80 on Dirk Hartog, resulting in the loss of 30 to 40 percent of the Acacia shrub cover. Captive populations are currently held at the Peron Captive Breeding Facility and the Dryandra Captive Breeding Facility, though the latter has experienced problems with aerial predation by the wedge-tailed eagle (8). At last, in 2003 and 2004, banded hare-wallabies from Peron Captive Breeding Facility and the Shark Bay Islands were successfully reintroduced to Faure Island, after the removal of goats from the island (8) (9). This population is now thriving and represents a remarkable victory for conservation. Banded hare-wallabies have been so successful in adapting to their new environment that they bred in the first year after release, providing fresh hope for the long-term survival of this relic species of ‘short faced kangaroo’ (9).

Fore more information on the banded hare-wallaby see: 

Authenticated (02/01/08) by Professor John Rodger, University of Newcastle, Australia.
http://www.newcastle.edu.au/centre/tfi/

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. NatureBase: Department of Environment and Conservation (March, 2007)
    http://www.naturebase.net/component/option,com_docman/task,doc_details/Itemid,1288/gid,119/
  3. CITES (January, 2007)
    http://www.cites.org/
  4. Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) (March, 2007)
    http://www.australianwildlife.org/wildlifeprofiles.asp?WID=572
  5. Australianfauna.com (March, 2007)
    http://www.australianfauna.com/bandedharewallaby.php
  6. Animal Diversity Web (March, 2007)
    http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Lagostrophus_fasciatus.html
  7. Animal Info – Information on Endangered Mammals (March, 2007)
    http://www.animalinfo.org/species/lagofasc.htm
  8. Richards, J.D. (2003) Report on Threatened Shark Bay Marsupials, Western Barred Bandicoot Perameles bougainville bougainville, Burrowing Bettong Bettongia lesueur lesueur, Banded Hare-wallaby Lagostrophus fasciatus fasciatus, and Rufous Hare-wallabies Lagorchestes hirsutus bernieri and Lagorchestes hirsutus dorreae. Department of Environment and Heritage, Canberra. Available at:
    http://www.cse.csiro.au/publications/2003/sbmarsupialsrecpln.pdf
  9. Wildlife Matters: newsletter of Australian Wildlife Conservancy (March, 2007)
    http://www.australianwildlife.org/news/Sept2005-HTML/sept2005.htm