The swamp wallaby, also known as the black wallaby or black pademelon, lives in the dense understorey of rainforests, woodlands and dry sclerophyll forest along with eastern Australia. This unique Australian macropod has a dark black-grey coat with a distinctive light-coloured cheek stripe. The swamp wallaby is a small, macropod marsupial, and is mostly found in Eastern Australia. Wallabies look like small kangaroos but are generally solitary animals. They occasionally come together to feed or mate.
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The only living species of the Wallabia genus, this small marsupial is covered with dark brown fur, exhibiting lighter rusty markings on the belly, chest and base of the ears. Males can grow up to about 76 cm in height and weigh around 17kg. Females weigh 13kg and can grow to about 69cm.
The Swamp wallaby is endemic to the eastern regions of Australia. This animal has occasionally been taken for a panther due to the dark colouration of its fur and a long black tail, which strike the eye unlike the hindquarters of this animal, which are often difficult to see in the dense cover of the Australian bush.
Distinguished from other wallabies by their dark colour, the northern swamp wallaby is classified as the only living member of the genus Wallabia. Its unique gait, reproductive behaviour and a distinct number of chromosomes further distinguish it from other wallabies. Most wallabies have 16 chromosomes. Female swamp wallabies have 11 while males only have 10.
They are also known as the black wallaby, stinky or stinker. The last two nicknames came from the smell which is given off if their meat is cooked.
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Swamp Wallaby Feeding and diet
The Swamp Wallaby feeds on a variety of plants including introduced and native shrubs, grasses and ferns. Swamp wallaby relies on thick grass and dense bush to shelter and hide under during the day, coming out at dusk to browse and graze on grass and small shrubs. Although they are mostly solitary, they have been found to gather at common food sources during the night. Swamp Wallabies are strictly herbivorous, readily switching from one plant species to another. They are browsers and use their reduced forelimbs to manipulate food. Their diet is varied, consisting of soft plants such as buds, ferns, leaves, shrubs and grasses. They have been known to eat bark, shoots from needle-leaf trees, and plants that can be poisonous to domesticated animals and people.
Swamp Wallaby Habits and Lifestyle
Swamp wallabies are solitary animals. They do not appear to be territorial. These wallabies have been seen feeding together with other unrelated species without showing any territorial behaviour. The home range of a Swamp wallaby is typically 16 ha, often overlapping with these of conspecifics. Swamp wallabies usually spend their daytime hours resting in under-storey and sheltered areas with dense vegetation. At dusk, these nocturnal animals come out to graze in open grasslands. To move fast, they take long leaps while holding their tails horizontal and their heads low. Meanwhile, they seem to be poorly coordinated when moving slowly.
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Swamp Wallaby Reproduction
Swamp Wallabies breed throughout the year, having 1 offspring at a time. The joey will stay in the pouch for up to 9 months before it vacates but will continue to suckle for another 6 months. As a marsupial, the female will give birth to a poorly developed young which is raised in the pouch. At birth, the young weigh as little as 1g. Females have four teats but most often one joey is born. Twins have been recorded on some occasions.
Their gestation period is 33-38 days with a 34-day estrus cycle. They are the only marsupial that has a gestation period that’s greater than the estrus cycle. As a result of this females will mate again in the last few days of their gestation allowing for almost continuous breeding. This allows two embryos to develop at the same time. One fetus grows in one uterus while the other hosts a developing embryo.
Young spend 8-9 months after birth developing in their pouch. Once they start to suckle the developing embryo will pause development until the joey leaves the pouch. The second embryo then finishes its development and is born after 33-38 days. Once the first joey leaves the pouch it will continue to suckle for 14 months. Sexual maturity is reached by 18 months old.
Males of this species tend to look for receptive females and mate with them in foraging areas instead of finding them in sheltered areas during the daytime hours. Male wallabies fiercely compete with each other for their mating rights. Swamp wallabies are polygynous. These confrontations end with short kicking attacks, defining the winning male, which is usually the larger individual. Swamp wallabies mate throughout the year rather than having a specific mating season. The gestation period lasts for 33 – 38 days, yielding a single baby, which remains in its mother’s pouch for around 36 weeks after birth. Young wallabies feed upon maternal milk for up to 15 months, reaching maturity within 15 – 18 months.
Swamp Wallaby Predators and Threats
Natural predators include dingoes and eagles. Introduced predators such as domestic dog will hunt them. Humans hunt swamp wallabies in small numbers for their coat, but their fur’s coarse nature means they are not often targeted.
Another threat presented by humans is habitat loss and degradation along with vehicle strikes.