(Other Names: Canguro-liebre peludo, Mala, Ormala, Spinifex Rat, Wallaby-lièvre de l'Ouest, Wallaby-lièvre Roux, Western Hare Wallaby, Wurrup)
1. Profile (Picture)
The rufous hare wallaby, which weighs up to about 2 kg (4.4 lb), generally is solitary
and nocturnal. It eats seedheads, young sedge and
grass leaves, herbs and shrubs. It is found in arid and semi-arid locations, particularly spinifex hummock grasslands of the sand plain and sand
dune deserts. A short burrow, up to 70 cm (2.3') long, is often dug for protection, and
for shelter in hot weather. Alternatively, it may rest during the day, in a depression
lightly scratched in the ground in the shade of a bush or by a tuft of grass. A female
usually rears one young per year.
*** The rufous hare wallaby's scientific name means "dancing hare."
*** These wallabies are not much larger than hares and resemble them in their movements and, to some extent, in their habits.
*** The females, on average, are larger and heavier than the males.
*** Its habit of hiding in spinifex has given rise to its name of "spinifex-rat."
*** It was once so common throughout most of the arid and semi-arid parts of Australia that it was an important food source for aborigines.
The rufous hare wallaby was first documented by Western observers in the early part of the 19th century. It was once so common throughout most of the arid and semi-arid parts of Australia, occupying more than 25% of that country, that many early explorers commented on its abundance. The areas where it occurred included Western Australia (the wheatbelt east to the South Australia border north of Nullarbor Plain; north to Shark Bay and east through the Great Sandy and Gibson Deserts to the Northern Territory border), Northern Territory (spinifex deserts from Stuart Highway west to the Western Australia border) and South Australia (the northwest desert area). It apparently still existed in the Great Sandy and Gibson Deserts as recently as the 1930's.
During approximately 1935-1960, a major collapse in its numbers took place in the southwestern portion of Australia. By 1966, it occurred on Bernier and Dorre Islands, although rare, and it probably still survived in inland western South Australia and in the inland desert areas of Western Australia. By 1987, it occurred only in two populations in the Tanami Desert, Northern Territory and Dorre and Bernier Islands in Shark Bay, Western Australia. In the early 1990's it was reported that "satisfactory" numbers existed on Bernier and Dorre Islands, with only one small mainland population remaining in the Tanami Desert, comprising approximately 30 individuals. Unfortunately, the mainland population was apparently wiped out by fire. As of 1996 it was reported to exist on Bernier and Dorre Islands (these populations fluctuate significantly between years of high and low rainfall) and on the mainland in two experimental reintroduction programs.
The aborigines of Australia avidly hunted hare wallabies for food, but this may have benefited the animals. The aborigines regularly set winter fires in order to clear areas for easier hunting. This produced a mosaic of vegetation in different stages of regeneration. This not only provided food for the rufous hare wallaby but also prevented the build-up of brush which set the stage for devastating fires caused by lightning during the summer. The decline of hare wallabies coincided with the removal of the aborigines from large areas and the reduction of winter fires. The two mainland colonies of the rufous hare wallaby discovered in the Tanami Desert in the 1970's were in localities where regular winter burning was still practiced. (Bolton & Latz 1978) Other factors for its recent decline included clearing and fragmentation of habitat in southwestern western Australia, and may have included predation by introduced cats and foxes and competition with introduced rabbits.
Austral. Wildl. Cons., Bolton & Latz 1978, Burbidge & McKenzie 1989, Burton & Pearson 1987, Cons. Intl., Earth Sanctuaries, Flannery 1990, IUCN 1966, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Kennedy 1992, Maxwell et al. 1996, Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Terrambiente
Last modified: June 3, 2006;