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's 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 and hind feet are black. The head has a cream stripe running along the upper lip and face to the level of the ear. The tail is long and mostly black in colour with the base a rich rufous brown, 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. However, unadorned rock-wallabies never exceed 5 kg in weight, whereas female Proserpine rock-wallabies can reach 8 kg and males 10 kg in weight.
Habitat and Distribution
The Proserpine rock-wallaby occurs on 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.
A population of the Proserpine rock-wallaby has been introduced 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 on rocky slopes with a closed canopy. The habitat on Gloucester Island National Park includes rocky outcrops in dry vine forest, associated with beach scrub as well as Acacia open forests at higher elevations.
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, relying on rock piles to shelter in 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 revised National recovery plan for the Proserpine rock-wallaby Petrogale persephone, was to improve the conservation status of the Proserpine rock-wallaby through habitat protection, reducing threats to the species and increasing public participation in recovery activities.
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 species thriving due to the availability of resources on the island coupled with a lack of predators. The objective now for the Hayman Island insurance population is to maintain a sustainable level, including through the translocation of individuals to suitable mainland populations.
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.
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
- controlling feral and domestic animals conducting weed control in Proserpine rock-wallaby habitat
- implementing grazing and fire management appropriate for the Proserpine rock-wallaby
- installing fences (eg. solid as opposed to mesh) 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 conserve areas of remnant vegetation for wallaby habitat by managing weeds, grazing and fire and controlling feral dogs and cats. Landholders can also investigate options to protect their land for conservation into the future, such as through various conservation covenant mechanisms that may be available at local or state government level. 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.