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BRINDLED NAILTAIL WALLABY-Onlychogalea frenata

The brindled tail wallaby lives as one of Australia's most endangered species. Rediscovered in 1973, this animal survives on the verge of extinction. Its decline has been mostly caused by changing habitat, competition for food due to newly introduced animals to the continent and an increase in introduced predators.

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is developing extensive recovery and breeding programs to try to save this animal.

What does it look like?

The bridled nailtail wallaby gets its name from the white 'bridle' that runs from the center of its neck, along the shoulder to behind the forearm on each side of its body. A black dorsal stripe runs down the length of its body and it also has white cheek stripes on both sides of its head.

Males are usually 11m long and weigh 5-8kg. Females are about 1m long and weigh 4-5kg.

Like the other two nailtails, the bridled nailtail has a horny, pointed 'nail' on its tail tip. Between 3-6mm long and partly covered by fur, the purpose of the tiny spur is unknown. One theory is that the wallaby uses the 'nail' as a stabilizer by dragging it along the ground when it turns sharply at speed.

Where does it live?

The bridled nailtail wallaby lives in the semi-arid inland on scrub edges with surrounding grassland. It scratches out a shallow depression under a bush for shelter in the scrub and grazes in nearby grassland.

During the day, the bridled nailtail digs out a shallow hole under a bush to rest. If disturbed, it might slip quietly away to another bush or if chased it might hide in a hollow log.

These beautiful creatures were once found extensively throughout Australia but are now only found in central Queensland.

What does it eat?

Towards dusk, the bridled nailtail wallaby makes its way to the edge of the scrub to browse and find food such as mixed forbs and grass. Using its forepaws to rake aside material on the ground or to reach green leaves, it often grazes in small clearings.

It rarely goes beyond a couple of hundred meters from the scrub, except in drier months when food becomes scarce.

During the winter, the wallaby might bask in the afternoon sunlight before going out to feed. If the weather is dry, it will drink water. Otherwise, it gets its water from food and dew.

Threats to survival

Changing habitat and scrub that bridled nailtails use as shelter has been the main reason for the wallaby's decline, and continues to be a major threat to its survival.

Farming and grazing, competition for food and shelter from introduced animals such as sheep and rabbits, and introduced predators such as the fox and the cat have all contributed to the bridled nailtail wallaby's decline.

Hunting for pelts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries also depleted the wallaby's numbers.

Protection

In 1980, the Queensland Government established a reserve to protect the last remaining colony, now Taunton National Park (Scientific). A research and monitoring program begun in 1980 focuses on the ways nailtails use their habitat.

Predator numbers are controlled to protect the wallabies. Cattle are also kept out of Taunton.

Feeding grounds within the wallaby's habitat have been improved to increase its chances of survival.

In recent years, a captive breeding program has been working to re-establish wild populations of the bridled nailtail wallaby. The program has had some success, and wallabies were recently released into Idalia National Park.

Sources

On the Wallaby. Colour Photography, No. 5 1962, p196-197,200.

Nowak, Ronald. Walker's Mammals of the World, 5th Ed., Vol. I, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD. 1991.

http://www.env.gld.au. Naturally Queensland Information Centre. Brisbane QLD.

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