Black Wallabies, aka Swamp Wallabies (Wallabia bicolor), are among the most numerous and commonly seen mammals in the Strathbogie Forest and across much of rural and natural Victoria. Adult Black Wallabies weigh about 15-20 kg and live largely solitary lives. Anyone living near the bush knows that they can become quite accustomed to human presence, as long as they are left alone. One of the Black Wallaby’s most distinctive characteristics is its long, thick black tail, sometimes white-tipped. This tail, on the end of a solid black body disappearing into the bush, is almost certainly behind some of the big cat sightings that surface across south-east Australia!
Over the last four years, the Strathbogie Ranges CMN has conducted a citizen science program that included setting camera traps at over 60 locations in the Strathbogie Forest. The Black Wallaby was detected at over 90% of all camera trap sites and was the most frequently seen animal (total number of detections). As well as providing presence/absence information, the trailcams allow us to have a sticky-beak into the private lives of these shy marsupials. The following videos, from multiple sites in the Strathbogie Forest, let us see into the private lives of these delightful marsupials that we too often take for granted.
Adult Black Wallabies live largely solitary lives and really only interact with each other at breeding time which is generally in the cooler months (April to September) in southern Australia, though births can occur at any time of the year. And as is the case for many other marsupials, Black Wallabies use embryonic diapause that allows females to be suckling two different aged joeys in the pouch, and be pregnant with a third!
This video shows how males quietly approach females from behind, scratching the rump to gauge her receptiveness. It also shows the fierce competition between males for mating privileges, as well as how cute mothers and joeys can be.
The first segment shows a particularly curious (or hungry!) Black Wallaby chewing on the rope used to fasten the trailcam to the tree and then it devours the blooms and stem of a Hyacinth Orchid. Next, a Black wallaby tucks into Dogwood (Cassinia aculeata) – only a short segment here, but the animal browsed that shrub for about 15 minutes before moving onto Austral Bracken (Pteridium esculentum). Though it’s often mentioned as a Black Wallaby food source, it’s amazing to see them tuck into the tough, leathery fronds of bracken, as so few animals appear to eat it and it is known to have toxicity to livestock. Another fern (Blechnum sp) also appears to be on the Black Wallaby menu, here a log provides easy access. Often Black Wallabies are seen sniffing the ground and they are known to seek out underground fungi (aka native truffles). The wallaby with joey at 1:16 is munching on a fallen bracket fungus in her paw. At 1:33 we see a very large, male Black Wallaby stand on his hind legs to reach Dogwood foliage, the brittle branches breaking under the strain. Next is a long sequence of a wallaby chewing (audibly) on something very crunchy. Whatever it’s eating is clearly somewhat distasteful as it then adopts a posture suggesting discomfort and tries to get the taste off its tongue and out of its mouth. Eventually the animal appears re-chew and swallow what it was chewing and proceeds to lick and groom its paws and face – an epic effort. It’s tempting to think it was medicating – ingesting some yukky substance that it needed.
This last video shows that life isn’t always hectic for Black Wallabies. Although they are occasionally chased by predators (in this case a Red Fox, at 00:31), Black wallabies can spend lots of time either investigating (perhaps for underground fungi, in this case), or just relaxing. It may not look like the site of lots of mammal action, but this trailcam site turned out to be very busy. Species detected here were: Short-beaked Echidna, Black Wallaby, Mountain Brushtail Possum, Common Ringtail Possum, Koala, Common Wombat, Agile Antechinus, Red Fox and Sambar Deer.
After having referred to these animals as Swamp Wallabies, or ‘Swampies’, for 40+ years, I’m slowly getting used to their official Victorian common name of Black wallaby. I resisted for many years, but there is logic to the name change. Though they inhabit wet forest with dense, ‘swampy’ undergrowth, this wallaby species has been expanding it’s range into northern and western Victoria and is now often seen in many places that could never be described as ‘swampy’, but they are black.
Read more about the Strathbogie Forest Citizen Science program:
- Creatures of habit
- Tree-top acrobats – in heat
- Feathery-tale of a new species
- Little Mount Wombat walk – eagle nest, wetland, fire
- Eagle nest in a Yellow Box
This data was collected as part of the Strathbogie Ranges CMN’s Strathbogie Forest Citizen Science Program and was supported by the Victorian State Government. Thanks also to the many volunteers that helped deliver this project.