Bio Facts: Wallaby, Red-necked
Bennett’s or Red-necked Wallaby
East coast of Australia and Tasmania
Open plains, woodlands, forests, and rocky cliffs
The Bennett’s wallaby looks like a small kangaroo. It is approximately 3 feet tall and weighs about 30 pounds. Males are generally larger and more muscular than females. Coat color is grayish brown with light, almost white, under markings; nape of neck and shoulders are reddish.
Normally 10 to 15 years; an outstanding record of 18.6 years has been reported in captivity
Females usually at 14 months and males at 24 months of age
In the wild, wallabies are grazers, eating fibrous plant materials, grasses, leaves, and herbs. In the Zoo, they are fed an herbivore diet.
Bennett’s wallabies are nocturnal, feeding at night and resting during the day. They are herbivores and satisfy their water requirements from the foods they eat. They do not need to drink from standing water everyday.
The small to medium-sized Bennett’s wallaby is considered a solitary animal. Apart from grazing together at night, this wallaby generally lives a solitary life. Groups, or mobs, have no particular leader, and individuals move from one group to another. Females and their offspring separate not more than a month after the young leave the pouch, and mated pairs are only together for 24 hours.
There is a distinct breeding season, with births occurring late summer to early autumn. This is in contrast to mainland populations of the same species, where births occur year round. The gestation period is 30 days. Pouch life is about 280 days, and weaning occurs at 12 to 17 months.
Usually one young is produced. Twins and one set of triplets have been reported.
The wallaby is a marsupial. The female gives birth to an under-developed fetus called a joey. The joey must climb into its mother’s pouch where it attaches to a nipple. The joey’s development will continue within the warm and soft pouch. During its first six months, the joey will grow 2,000 times its original birth weight. After a few months, the joey leans out of the pouch to nibble on grasses within reach. After the joey leaves the pouch to graze on its own, it will quickly dive back into the pouch at any sign of danger.
The Bennett’s wallaby is remarkably developed in its mode of leaping. It jumps forward rather than up, a movement that expends less energy.
When moving slowly, as in grazing or browsing, wallabies exhibit an unusual “five-footed” gait. It uses its tail and forearms for balance while swinging its hind legs forward. When the hind legs are firmly on the ground, it moves its arms and tail forward.
The Bennett’s wallaby has sharp hearing and a keen sense of smell. Wallabies thump their tails at any sign of danger.
Their front paws have five clawed fingers compared to their hind feet, which have two major toes.
During its first six months, the joey will grow to 2,000 times its original birth weight.
A wallaby’s hindquarters are powerful. The tapered tail acts as a balance or rudder when leaping or may be used as a third leg when sitting. The tail is strong enough to support the weight of the entire animal.
The Bennett’s wallaby was brought to the South Island of New Zealand in about 1870. Eventually they increased to an estimated 750,000 individuals. To control their numbers, people hunted them, reducing their numbers to 3,500 by the 1960’s.
There are two subspecies of red-necked wallabies. The red-necked wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus banksianus) is found on mainland Australia. The Bennett’s wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus) is found on Tasmania and Bass Strait Island. Reproduction varies between the subspecies. M.r. rufogriseus has a well-defined breeding season with births occurring between late January and July. M. r. banksianus does not have a well defined breeding season with births occurring in all months.
What is the difference between a kangaroo and a wallaby? The term “wallaby” was applied to the smaller, kangaroo-like animals. Other medium-sized kangaroo-like animals were called “wallaroos”. Naming animals based on size became very confusing, and today these names persist as a matter of tradition.
In Tasmania, the Bennett’s wallaby is probably more common now than when settlement began. It is considered a pest because of its damage to regenerating eucalyptus forests. It and other species are sometimes shot in large numbers for alleged destruction of crops and pasture. In addition, several species are still exported through the skin trade even though hunting is now regulated. The objective of regulating hunting is to insure that overall populations are not adversely affected.
In Karana Downs at Mt. Crosby, people are working together to live with wallabies. The main threats to the wallaby’s survival are dog attacks, cars, habitat loss, and habitat fragmentation. People are confining their dogs at night when the wallabies are most active, learning where wallabies cross roadways and protecting these areas, avoiding the dumping of garden and lawn clippings in wild areas to protect native plants eaten by the wallabies, and allowing saplings to grow to produce healthy brush habitat for wallabies. To learn more about this project, visit http://wallabies.mountcrosby.com.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
Various forms of the red-necked wallaby have been part of the Jacksonville Zoological Garden’s animal inventory since August 1965. Although only the island subspecies is given the common name of Bennett’s wallaby around most of the world, it is more common in North America to refer to all forms of red-necked wallaby as Bennett’s wallabies. Our earliest red-necked wallabies (Macropus rufogriseus banksianus) were of the mainland subspecies.