The Agile Wallaby
(Macropus agilis)

 

 by

Peter Koch 

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An Agile Wallaby in typical resting pose photographed at the Gorge Wildlife Park, Cudlee Creek, South Australia(.

This pose is also adopted by females when giving birth and is typical of all macropods as well as many other marsupial species.

General

 

Macropus is derived from the Latin meaning ‘big-footed’ and agilis for agile.

 

There are three extant species in Australia whose range is poorly defined:

        Macropus agili agilis – generally found in The Northern Territory.

        Macropus agilis nigrescens – The Western Australian group

        Macropus agilis jardinii – found in Queensland

 

And Macropus agilis papuanus found in Papua New Guinea

 

It has many common names including Sandy Wallaby, Kimberley Wallaby Jungle Wallaby, Grass Wallaby and River Wallaby.

 

This is a very abundant animal.   So much so that both Western Australia and the Northern Territory carry out periodic culling programs and in Queensland a bounty system operates in cane growing areas.

 

Like all macropods they require good water and are usually seen drinking early in the morning or just after sunset.    Agiles in the wild will often dig or utilize soaks away from the waters edge, which is presumably some kind of defence behaviour as this practice may help in reducing them from being taken by crocodiles.   Most, if not all their habitat is also the same as that of the worlds largest reptile, the Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) as well its much smaller relative, the Freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus johnstoni) although the ‘freshy’ would be of little concern to an adult Agile.

 

Distribution

 

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The Agile Wallaby is confined to tropical regions of Australian and Papua New Guinea and is abundant throughout its range.    It is found in the northern regions of Western Australia, The Northern Territory and Queensland and in Papua New Guinea and some offshore islands.

 

In the wild, the Agile occupies a coastal strip around the north of Australia from Western Australia through to Queensland.    In the better arrears and with good conditions prevailing, it is not uncommon to see groups of 150 or more.

 

Appearance

 

The agile wallaby is a strikingly beautiful animal.   It has a very sleek and slim appearance, overall sandy brown above with whitish underparts and a very long slender tail which can get to almost a metre in length..  The head has a dark median stripe between the eyes and ears.    The snout is dark brown to black and a white stripe along the face from the mouth to just under the ears.    It has a whitish stripe across its thigh.

 

The weight of a dominant fully-grown male is can reach around 27kgs with a body length of 90cms (36”) with the female being somewhat smaller at around 10 -15kgs and 70cms (28”).

 

Captive Husbandry

 

Agile by name and agile by nature, this wallaby can be very flighty in captivity.   Being one of the larger wallabies, it seems to have adapted well and is secure in the wild, despite humans’ activities.

 

A fine lined wallaby and strikingly marked, the Agile adapts to a wide variety of foods.     Good quality hay (not too coarse), natural grasses, leaves, bark and roughage.   My colony likes to dig up horse thistles and eat the moist taproot, which resembles a carrot.    For treats they love most form fruit/vegetables especially apple, carrot and potatoes.    During the winter mine are also fed small amounts of grain, which they will almost knock you over to get at.

 

With my colony of fourteen animals, which consists of an alpha (or dominant male), four subordinate males and nine females.    The alpha male is always on the lookout for any of the subordinate males who thinks he is going to prove himself and will be quickly driven off.    If, for whatever reason, the alpha male dies, growth hormones seem to be released in the buck next in line so that within a few months he will have grown much larger and become the dominant male.

 

Agiles will do better in large areas, knowing that they can get away from disturbances if they want to.   It is not uncommon for Agiles to break their necks against fences when disturbed in small yards.    Some time ago, I witnessed an agile being released into a 6 acre paddock.    At the point of release, it took of at great speed across the paddock and did not come to a stop until it crashed into the fence on the far side of the block.

 

Overall, the Agile is a very attractive wallaby but when kept in captivity in most instances will require just that extra bit of care.

 

Breeding

 

Young are born throughout the year and with good conditions, a female can give birth every seven months.    Gestation period is 29 days and pouch life around 219 days.   After the young have left the pouch their return is only allowed for a few days, after that the female will take one hop if the young tries to enter the pouch knocking it over as if to give the message “Keep Out”.

 

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

 
 
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