Summer 2004
Marsupial of the Season
 

The Euro or Common Wallaroo
(Macropus robustus)

by

 Bob Cleaver

(Please click on thumbnails to enlarge)

 General

Macropus is derived from the Greek meaning ‘big-footed’ and robustus meaning ‘robust’.  

There are a four extant subspecies:-

Macropus robustus robustus - Eastern seaboard to the Great Dividing Range. 

Macropus robustus erubescens - Occupies most of mainland Australia.

Macropus robustus woodwardi - Found in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and the north west of the Northern Territory.

Macropus robustus isabellinus – exclusive to Barrow Island (off the north coast of Western Australia).

It has a number of localised common names including Euro, which is the name by which it mostly referred to in South Australia.    It is also known as the Eastern Grey Wallaroo, Red Wallaroo, Roan Wallaroo, Barrow Island Wallaroo, Hill Kangaroo and Biggada.

Appearance

These animals have a very distinctive appearance as they have long coarse shaggy fur although the length can vary somewhat between the sub species.   They are also smaller than the Red (Macropus rufus) or Grey Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) whose habitat they share.      Colour will range from a dark grey through to a reddish brown and many mixtures of colours in between but in general, the colour is not even and can appear ‘grizzled’.    I have seen animals that are a beautiful silver grey (almost white) right through to a stunning deep ironstone red.     The colour is generally associated with their habitat.

There is some sexual dimorphism in that the male will attain almost twice the weight of the female.   An average adult male will be in the region of 40+kgs and the female only about 20 to 25kgs.    There are also some major differences in colour between Macropus robustus robustus, locally known as the Eastern Grey Wallaroo, and Macropus robustus erubescens, commonly known as the Euro, in that the former has shaggy dark grey fur and the latter, reddish grey shorter fur.

Another distinctive feature of the species, if you can get close enough to see it, is the bare rhinarium (much like the domestic dog).   This is also a feature of the Black Wallaroo and the Antilopine Wallaroo to which the Euro/Wallaroo is closely related.    This is notably different to the Red or Grey kangaroo who both have hairy noses, except for a small rim around the nostrils.     They also seem to have very large ears that appear to be out of proportion to the rest of the head.

Distribution

This species covers pretty much most of the continent although they are absent in Tasmania and only rarely found in Victoria.     Unlike its two larger relatives, (the Red and the Grey kangaroo), they are not found in large groups but are generally solitary.    However, they may occasionally be sighted in pairs or small family groups.

Habitat & Diet

These are animals of ‘high’ country.   They have a distinct preference for ‘high’ places (as anyone who has hand-raised one will attest) and will be typically found on rock ledges, escarpments, stony ridges and in fact anywhere where they can get a good view of their surroundings.   They also seemed to abhor getting wet and will head for the first available shelter at the first sight of rain and, conveniently, their home range will include suitable shelter sights such as caves, over hanging rock ledges and the like.    I suppose you could call them mountain kangaroos but they not seen above the snow line in winter or at least only rarely.   

They are generally a dry climate animal and can survive for long periods without water provided they have access to some herbage that has some moisture content.    They will graze on a wide variety of natural pasture as well as browse on shrubs and overhanging tree branches.   They also has a liking for the bark of Eucalypt trees especially in times of drought or if the pasture is exceptionally poor.    I suspect it is the moisture content that attracts them. 

Captive Husbandry

Their diet and maintenance in captivity are much the same as any of the other larger kangaroos including the amount of space required.      I don’t intend to go into detail here as we have already discussed this at great length the articles on the Red and Grey Kangaroo in the Autumn and Winter 2003 issues of “Keeping Marsupials”.     However, I would add that if your enclosure is flat, the addition of a mound, a pile of bales of hay or some other structure (away from a fence-line of course) that they can climb on, would benefit their quality of life.    They also tend to be ‘moody’ and can be quite pugnacious at times.    If they housed with other animals, regardless of species, fights can break out.    In my experience, these never amount to much and are mostly a lot of huffing and puffing with the occasional nip and will often erupt when the animal concerned is in a bad mood or another has taken his or her favourite spot.      I would assume this behaviour is partly due to their tendency to be solitary in the wild as they do not like ‘crowds’.     Be warned, these animals will bite, unlike any of the other larger ‘roos.

As with the Red and Grey, most captive Euros will come from orphaned or injured road killed adults.      This brings me to a comment that I will repeat from previous texts, as I believe it to be of paramount importance.    That is, that if the animal you happen to be taking on is a male, he must be castrated at an early age – usually when they attain a weight of around five or six kgs.    This is NOT an option.     I cannot stress this strongly enough.    A whole male is dangerous! 

The Euro is a delightful animal to hand-raise and is what I would call the mischievous animal of the kangaroo world but they can be hard work once they are out of the pouch as they need to watched constantly.    I have included a couple of pictures that I think highlight their need of high places and mischievousness.      These pictures were quite spontaneous and in no way staged.    The animal was ‘caught in the act’ so to speak.

They also have a particular love of paper and paper products – so watch your books, magazines, newspapers and do not leave any cash (i.e. folding stuff) laying about, even if it is plastic these days - they are still likely to have a go at it!

Here is another example of the Euros perverseness.    

Over the years, we have got into the habit of giving all our ‘roos a daily handout of a small portion of bread (keeps them tame and handleable).      We will take a box of bread pieces out into the roo yard, put the box on the ground and hand out a small piece to each ‘roo, but the euros prefer to eat the box!!

Breeding 

Like the Red Kangaroo and unlike the Western Grey, the Wallaroo exhibits embryonic diapause.     They reach sexual maturity at around 20 months of age and there are some marked differences in the oestrus cycles of the Eastern Grey Wallaroo (Macropus robustus robustus) and the Euro (Macropus robustus erubescens).

The Eastern Grey Wallaroo has a oestrus cycle of 33 days, a gestation period of 32 days and a pouch life of some 260 days but the Euro has an oestrus cycle of 45 days, a gestation period of 34 days and a pouch life of 238 days.

There have been no long term studies of this species population dynamics. 

 

References

 

Strahan, Ronald (1983) edited by “The Complete Book of Australian Mammals” published by Angus & Robertson.

Cayley, Neville (1987) “What Animal is That” published by Angus & Robertson

Jones, Frederick Wood (1923) “The Mammals of South Australia”

(Copyright remains with the author)

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