Species: Bridled nailtail wallaby (Onychogalea fraenata)
Status: Endangered (EN)
Interesting Fact: The bridled nailtail wallaby gets its name from the white ‘bridle’ line running down the centre of the neck and behind each arm, and from the horn-like ‘nail’ point on the tip of its long tail.
The bridled nailtail wallaby has earned the nickname ‘flash jack’ thanks to its ability to hop extremely quickly. It is able to pick up food, open its pouch and groom using its small forearms. Adult and young wallabies – both male and female – are similar in appearance, with grey fur and darker paws, feet and tail. Bridled nailtail wallabies are nocturnal and spend most of the day sheltering in shallow nests. At night, they tentatively come out to feed in open grassy woodlands.
Born around May, the young wallaby is tiny and underdeveloped, with rudimentary limbs and tail, and closed ears and eyes. However, once its umbilical cord breaks, it crawls at an amazing speed up through the female’s fur to the safety of her pouch, where it suckles for up to 11 months.
The bridled nailtail wallaby was common in inland Australia in the mid-19th century, but populations decreased dramatically and by the 1960s this species was presumed extinct. A small population was rediscovered in 1973 in a 100 km² area in central Queensland, Australia, and this is the only place in the world this species of wallaby is now found, having been lost from 95% of its original range. It is difficult to isolate any single cause for the decline of the bridled nailtail wallaby, as it has occurred so rapidly. In the early 1900s, this species suffered dramatically from shooting for its fur and pest control. Other threats include wildfires, 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.
Captive breeding and translocation projects have been developed, in addition to a recovery plan, but the public’s understanding of this species’ plight must also be increased to ensure continued support for the bridled nailtail wallaby.
Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author