Proserpine rock-wallaby Photo: D Stewart (EHP)
Common name: Proserpine rock-wallaby
Scientific name: Petrogale persephone (Petro = rock; gale = weasel; Persephone = Greek name for the Roman goddess Proserpine)
Animal group: rock-wallaby
Conservation status: This species is listed as Endangered in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and nationally (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). It is ranked as a critical priority under the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) Back on Track species prioritisation framework.
The Proserpine rock-wallaby is the second largest member of the genus Petrogale, with a head-body length of 501-640 mm for males and 526-630 mm for females. The tail length varies from 580-734 mm (males) and 515-640 mm (females). Male Proserpine rock-wallabies are considerably heavier at 4.3-10.2 kg while females average 3.5-8 kg.
The Proserpine rock-wallaby is marked with subdued colours enabling it to blend into its habitat. The overall fur colour is dark grey with a light mauve tinge with the chest and belly a light grey to dirty cream colour. Its paws are black. The head has a white stripe running along the upper lip and face to the level of the ear. The last third of the tail is black but usually ends in a white tip. Like other rock-wallabies the toe nails on the hind feet are short stout hooks and the soles have a thick fleshy pad that aids the animal when moving over rocks.
It can be confused with the unadorned rock-wallaby (Petrogale inornata), which also has similar habitat preferences and distribution on the mainland.
Habitat and Distribution
The Proserpine rock-wallaby occurs near rocky outcrops, rock piles and ledges in and around Dryander National Park, Conway National Park, Gloucester Island National Park, the Clarke Range west of Proserpine, parts of the Conway Range and around the township of Airlie Beach.
Populations of the Proserpine rock-wallaby have been introduced on to Hayman Island, in accordance with the previous version of the recovery plan, 'Recovery plan for the Proserpine rock-wallaby Petrogale persephone 2000-2004'. (see availability) On the mainland the Proserpine rock-wallaby prefers rocky outcrops, rock piles and cliffs in semi-deciduous dry vine forest with a closed canopy. The habitat on Gloucester Island National Park includes rocky outcrops in dry vine forest, associated with beach scrub.
The large rock piles are used as refuge sites for protection from predators and the high temperatures and humidity during summer. Up to 35 Proserpine rock-wallabies may inhabit a large rock pile, with movement between colonies occurring where sufficient connecting habitat is available. A good sign of their presence is the long cylindrical droppings that accumulate around their day-time shelter sites.
Life history and behaviour
Proserpine rock-wallabies are largely nocturnal, resting in sheltered areas during the day. Preliminary results from studies indicate that leaf drop from trees makes up approximately 60% of their diet. In drier periods they may also move to the forest edge to feed on grasses, vines, ferns and fungi.
The Proserpine rock-wallaby has an oestrus cycle of 33-35 days and a gestation period of 33-34 days. The young spend approximately 209 days in the pouch. After leaving the pouch it takes another 122 days before they are fully weaned. Females can also be pregnant with another partially developed embryo while they have a joey in the pouch. This allows them to reproduce quickly if conditions are suitable. This embryo only continues to development once the joey is just about to leave the pouch, and is usually born the same day that the pouch becomes empty. They can live up to 10 years in the wild.
The Proserpine rock-wallaby competes for habitat with tourism, housing development and rural land use. The reduction in Proserpine rock-wallaby numbers has resulted in colonies being more vulnerable to local extinction from these threats as well as other disturbances such as hunting by feral and domestic predators, introduced diseases from domestic animals, road kill and through the construction of barriers affecting dispersal.
The four main populations of the Proserpine rock-wallaby at Conway Range, Mt Dryander, Proserpine Range and Gloucester Island are all separated by unsuitable habitat resulting in barriers to genetic flow between these populations.
The overall objective of the ‘Recovery plan for the Proserpine rock-wallaby Petrogale persephone 2000-2004’, was to increase the population size and area of distribution within five years.
In 1996, 1100 ha of land was purchased and added to Dryander National Park of which 850 ha was identified as suitable rock-wallaby habitat. Seven Nature Refuges containing rock-wallaby habitat have been declared on private land adjoining Conway Range and Mt Dryander. Habitat areas have been recognised under Land for Wildlife agreements coordinated by the Whitsunday Catchment Landcare.
In 1998, 26 individual Proserpine rock-wallabies were released on to Hayman Island as part of the recovery program. These animals had been bred in captivity by the then Environmental Protection Agency. Final introductions to the population occurred in 2008 to strengthen the genetic viability of the colony.
The Hayman Island colony has become well established, with the animals breeding regularly and a minimum population of 155 individuals identified during a survey in 2010. Genetic testing has been conducted on the introduced population in comparison to wild populations on the mainland and Gloucester Island. Results indicate that the Hayman Island population of Proserpine rock-wallabies are genetically diverse.
A survey done in 2012 of the Proserpine rock-wallaby population on Gloucester Island has found that the rock-wallabies are generally in good condition with all of the females of breeding size trapped during the survey having young in their pouches.
The revised draft National recovery plan for the Proserpine rock-wallaby Petrogale persephone suggests that increased public participation, habitat protection and a reduction in threats to the species has the greatest potential for conserving the Proserpine rock-wallaby.
Suggested management practices to recover the Proserpine rock-wallaby in the revised recovery plan include:
- protecting Proserpine rock-wallaby habitat through voluntary conservation agreements and council open space habitat
- conducting weed control in Proserpine rock-wallaby habitat
- implementing grazing and fire management appropriate for the Proserpine rock-wallaby
- controlling feral and domestic animals
- installing fences that allow wallabies to escape from predators
What can be done to help this species?
Landholders in areas where Proserpine rock-wallabies are known to occur can enter into perpetual conservation agreements (Nature Refuge) that can conserve areas of remnant vegetation for wallaby habitat. Under such agreements, incentives and support are provided to landholders and access to the property can be negotiated.
Local residents can replace toxic garden plants (e.g. oleander and periwinkle) with native plants. A brochure on creating habitat for the Proserpine rock-wallaby is available. (see availability)
Available from the library catalogue
The documents referred to on this page are available from the department’s online library catalogue.
Johnson, PM 2003, Kangaroos of Queensland, Queensland Museum.
Nolan, B and Johnson, P 2001, Recovery plan for the Proserpine rock-wallaby Petrogale Persephone 2000-2004*, (see availability) Report to Environment Australia, Canberra, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Brisbane.
Department of Environment and Resource Management 2010, National recovery plan for the Proserpine rock-wallaby Petrogale persephone, Report to Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra, Queensland Government.
Help save the Proserpine Rock Wallaby brochure (see availability)
Creating habitat for the Proserpine Rock Wallaby brochure (see availability)
Sharman, GB, Maynes, GM, Eldridge, MDB and Close, RL (2002) Proserpine Rock-wallaby, in Strahan, R (ed.), The Mammals of Australia. Reed New Holland.