Lagorchestes hirsutus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Diprotodontia Macropodidae

Scientific Name: Lagorchestes hirsutus Gould, 1844
Common Name(s):
English Rufous Hare-wallaby, Mala, Rufous Hare Wallaby, Wurrup
French Wallaby-lièvre De L'Ouest, Wallaby-lièvre Roux
Spanish Canguro-liebre Peludo
Taxonomic Notes:

Morphological and genetic studies have raised doubts about the validity of the three (originally four) subspecies. Courtenay (1993) found limited morphological differences between the extant subspecies. Eldridge et al. (2004) found that the Bernier and Dorre Island populations had substantially lower genetic diversity than the remnant mainland population. Mark Eldridge (pers. comm.) has unpublished molecular data that show very little difference between L. h. bernieri and L. h. dorreae, suggesting that the latter subspecies should be synonymised with the former (which we have followed). Whether or not the subspecies are valid, the three extant subpopulations are clearly different conservation management units.

L. h. hirsutus is Extinct;

L. h. bernieri is Vulnerable;

L. h. ‘central Australian subspecies’ is Endangered.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable D2 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2012-12-31
Assessor(s): Burbidge, A.A. & Woinarski, J.
Reviewer(s): Johnson, C.N. & Hawkins, C.
Contributor(s): Abbott, I., Eldridge, M., Hayward, M., Johnson, K., Legge, S., Morris, K., Richards, J. & Short, J.
The Rufous Hare-wallaby became ‘Extinct in the Wild’ on the mainland, but remained on Bernier and Dorre Islands in Shark Bay, Western Australia. It has been successfully translocated (assisted colonisation) to Trimouille Island, Montebello Islands, Western Australia. The species now occurs at three locations, all of which are threatened by possible introduction of feral predators or exotic disease and two of which occur in Shark Bay where a drying climate will threaten subpopulation viability.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

The Rufous Hare-wallaby was formerly widely distributed in central and western Australia. It is now restricted to two natural populations on Bernier (42.7 km2) and Dorre (51.6 km2) Islands in Shark Bay, Western Australia, and an introduced population on Trimouille Island (5.2 km2), Western Australia,

It has recently been translocated to mainland islands at Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory (1 km2), Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory (1.7 km2), Lorna Glen, Western Australia (11 km2) and Scotia, New South Wales (1 km2). None of these recent assisted colonisations are included in the evaluation as they are either too recent or are not self sustaining.

There are three recognised taxa:

Lagorchetes hirsutus hirsutus formerly occurred only in the south-west of Western Australia. It is extinct.

L. h. bernieri is restricted to Bernier and Dorre Islands, Western Australia.

An unnamed subspecies of L. hirsutus from the Tanami Desert on the Australian mainland. This undescribed subspecies was once widespread in central Australian deserts.
Countries occurrence:
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:103Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:1850
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):NoExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:3Continuing decline in number of locations:No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Subpopulations on Bernier and Dorre Islands are small and fluctuate, collectively with probably <4000 mature individuals during periodic drought. Short et al. (1989) estimated 2400 on Bernier and 1700 on Dorre. The carrying capacity of Trimouille Island has been estimated to be 120 - 350 depending on rainfall (Langford and Burbidge 2001); while this subpopulation has been monitored to ensure persistence, no recent estimates are available. At Watarrka, trapping in November 2012 captured 32 individuals (S. Ward pers. comm.). Subpopulation size at Scotia fluctuates between 40-70 animals (S. Legge pers. comm. 2012), while the subpopulation at Uluru Kata Tjuta has been estimated at between 90 and 215 individuals (J. Clayton pers. comm.). All three are provided with supplementary food and water and are not included in the Red List status evaluation.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:4000Continuing decline of mature individuals:No
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Rufous Hare-wallabies occupied a variety of vegetation types, mainly on sandy surfaces, in semi-arid and arid western and central Australia. On Bernier and Dorre Islands they occupy the whole islands, but are more common in some vegetation types than others. In central Australia, they were widespread and abundant in hummock grass (Triodia spp.) deserts and also inhabited gravelly plains, dunes and mulga (Acacia aneura) low woodlands with tussock grass (Burbidge et al. 1988), sheltering in a scrape beneath spinifex hummocks or in a short burrow, especially during summer (Burbidge et al. 1988). Bolton and Latz (1978) considered the tight patchy burns created by Aboriginal people before European occupation to have favoured the species, and the generally large, mainly summer fires in recent years to have been a major reason for its decline. Bolton and Latz (1978) found that plants grazed by the Rufous Hare-wallaby in the Tanami Desert were whole plants of Fimbristylis dichotoma and Calandrinia remota, leaves of Brunonia australis, Bassia astrocarpa and F. solidifolia and seed heads of Triodia pungens, T. schinzii, Bulbostylis barbata and Eragrostis eriopoda. In south-western Australia, Leake (1962) reported that, near Kellerberrin, Western Australia, the species occurred in sandplains with kwongkan (heath) vegetation. Lundie-Jenkins (1993) and Lundie-Jenkins et al. (1993a, b) have described the ecology of the Mala in detail.

Attempts to reintroduce L. hirsutus to parts of the Tanami Desert (Gibson et al. 1994) and to François Peron National Park, Shark Bay, failed due to predation by feral Cats, even where foxes were locally eradicated or naturally absent.

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:No
Generation Length (years):3.5
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): On the mainland, predation by introduced feral Cat and Red Foxes was the major cause of extinction in the wild, exacerbated by changed fire regimes.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

The most recent recovery plan (Langford 1999) was adopted in March 2001. It has six actions:

·         Field management.

·         Captive husbandry.

·         Population taxonomy.

·         Expansion of captive populations.

·         Community involvement and education.

·         Recovery Team management and administration.

Field management related to five sites: the ‘Mala Paddock’ (near Lake Surprise, Northern Territory), which is no longer maintained with animals being moved elsewhere), Bernier and Dorre Islands, which are visited and monitored regularly, Dryandra compound (animals being moved to Lorna Glen), Trimouille Island, which is visited and monitored, Peron Peninsula, where a captive colony is maintained, and a ‘new enclosure’. A captive colony is currently held at Alice Springs Desert Park (Ford and Hogg 2012). New enclosures have been established in the Northern Territory at Watarrka National Park and Uluru-Kata-Tjuta National Park as well as at Scotia Sanctuary, New South Wales. Translocation of Hare-wallabies from the Tanami Desert to Peron Peninsula, Shark Bay, occurred, but predation by feral Cats prevented the establishment of a wild population. Site visits by Aboriginal traditional owners to translocation sites has taken place. Arid Zone species recovery team meetings are held every few years.

Roache (2011) provided a list of recovery actions that would, if implemented, lead to the removal of the species from threatened species lists; these were estimated to cost $17 million over 10 years.

Current management

The last two known central Australian subpopulations of this subspecies became extinct in the wild in 1987 and 1991 (Johnson and Burbidge 2008); however, a captive colony was established from these subpopulations at Alice Springs, saving the subspecies from extinction (Johnson et al. 1996). Animals from this captive colony were established in a 1 km2-fenced site at the ‘mala paddock’ near Lake Surprise in the Tanami Desert. Later, when this site was closed because of its remoteness and high cost of maintenance, the subpopulation was used to establish other captive and mainland island colonies, including those at Watarrka National Park (Northern Territory), Shark Bay (Western Australia), Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park (NT), Scotia Sanctuary (New South Wales) and Dryandra (WA) (Woinarski et al. 2007). An extensive search for hare-wallabies and other threatened desert mammals along salt lake chains in the Great Sandy Desert in 1988 failed to locate any Hare-wallabies (Burbidge and Pearson 1989). In 1998 there was a translocation of captive animals from the ‘mala paddock’ to Trimouille Island in the Montebello Islands off the Pilbara coast of Western Australia (Langford and Burbidge 2001); this subpopulation is thriving, and has supported a translocation to a fenced enclosure at Lorna Glen (DEC 2012). In 2001, five Mala (4 females, 1 male) were reintroduced to a 100 ha fenced enclosure at Scotia in New South Wales from Alice Springs Desert Park, plus an additional male from Monarto Zoo. Nineteen (19: 5 males/14 female) supplemented this population in 2004 from the Desert Park and a further seven mala were transferred from Monarto Zoo in July 2008. There were c. 48 in the enclosure in 2012.


Conservation objectives

1.       Maintain island populations

2.       Maintain and enhance mainland island and captive colonies

3.       Translocate to Dirk Hartog Island once feral Cats are eradicated.

Citation: Burbidge, A.A. & Woinarski, J. 2016. Lagorchestes hirsutus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T11162A21954429. . Downloaded on 19 September 2018.
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