Bridled nailtail wallaby (Onychogalea fraenata)

Also known as: bridled wallaby, canguro rabipelado oriental, flash jack, merrin
  
French: Onychogale Bridé
Spanish: Canguro Rabipelado Oriental
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderDiprotodontia
FamilyMacropodidae
GenusOnychogalea (1)
SizeFemale head-body length: 43 - 55 cm (2)
Male head-body length: 50 - 70 cm (2)
Weight4-8 kg (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN A1a, C1+2b) on the IUCN Red List 2003 (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The bridled nailtail wallaby gets its name from the white ‘bridle’ line running from the centre of the neck down behind the forearm on either side, and the horny ‘nail’ point on the tip of its long tail (2). Like other wallabies its body posture is hunched, with large hind legs and muscular thighs allowing it to hop extremely quickly, hence this species’ nickname ‘flash jack’. This marsupial’s forearms are relatively small and unspecialised, with five strongly-clawed digits set around a broad palm, enabling it to pick up food, groom and open the pouch. Males, females and the young are similar in appearance with grey fur, darker paws, feet and tail, and lighter chests (4).

This species was common in inland Australia in the mid-19th Century but in the last century its populations decreased dramatically. By the 1960s it was presumed extinct, having not been seen since the 1930s, however, a small population was rediscovered in 1973 in a 100 km² area in central Queensland, Australia. This is the only place in the world this species of wallaby is now found (5).

This species of wallaby lives in Acacia shrubland and grassy woodland in semi-arid regions (5).

Bridled nail-tailed wallabies are nocturnal, beginning to feed at dusk. They spend most of the day sheltering in shallow nests scratched out beneath tussocks of grass or bushes and, at night, tentatively come out to feed in the more open grassy woodlands on grasses, shrubs and browse, raking aside dry material and picking up vegetation with their forepaws (6). As the dry season progresses and the pasture deteriorates these marsupials have been reported to gather in larger numbers, though usually they are shy and solitary animals (5).

Females stay with their young until they are independent at around one year old. Usually born in May the offspring are extremely under developed, almost in an embryonic stage, common to all other marsupials(5). They are tiny, with rudimentary limbs and tail, and closed ears and eyes. However, once their umbilical cord breaks they crawl at an amazing speed up through the mother’s fur to the safety of her pouch where they suckle for up to 11 months (4).

This wallaby has been lost from 95% of its original range (7). It is difficult however to isolate any single cause for its decline as the loss in numbers has been so rapid (4). In the early 1900s this species suffered dramatically from shooting, for its fur and because it was considered a pest (5). Other threats include wildfire events, prolonged drought, over-predation by foxes, feral cats and dingoes, disease, habitat destruction by the pastoral industry and competition for food from grazers, such as rabbits and domestic sheep (7).

Presently, the only known significant population of this species occurs on Taunton National Park (Scientific), which was established in 1970s. This park is managed by Environment Australia, and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), specifically to protect the bridled nailtail wallaby (7). As well as a Recovery Plan, captive breeding and translocation projects have been developed. Public understanding of this species’ plight must also be increased, not least so the Government continues to support these projects. It is thought that landowners are reluctant to report sightings of this wallaby on their property due to concerns over potential land acquisition of properties by QPWS, or restrictions placed on their management practices. The recovery of this species will require long term conservation, and continued monitoring (7).

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (October 2003) www.redlist.org
  2. Species in focus (October 2003) http://home.swiftdsl.com.au/~endangered/bntwallaby.htm
  3. CITES (October 2003) www.cites.org
  4. Macdonald, D. (2001) The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Animal Info (October 2003) http://www.animalinfo.org/species/onycfrae.htm
  6. Strahan, R. (1983) Complete book of Australian Mammals. Cornstalk Publishing, Australia.
  7. Lundie-Jenkins, G. (2002) Recovery for the bridled nailtail wallaby (Onychogalea fraenata) 1997-2001. Report to Environment Australia, Canberra. Queensland Parks and wildlife Service, Brisbane.