Petrogale penicillata


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Petrogale penicillata
Species Authority: (Gray, 1827)
Common Name(s):
English Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby, Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby, Western Rock Wallaby

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Taggart, D., Menkhorst, P. & Lunney, D.
Reviewer(s): Lamoreux, J. & Hilton-Taylor, C. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Listed as Near Threatened because this species is in significant decline (but at a rate of less than 30% over ten years) due to predation by, and competition with, introduced species and by fragmentation that has led to increasingly isolated populations that are prone to extinction, making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable under criterion A.
1996 Vulnerable

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby is endemic to south-eastern Australia, where it occurs in south-eastern Queensland, eastern New South Wales, and as a tiny population in the East Gippsland of eastern Victoria.
Australia (New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: This species is sparsely distributed within abundant suitable habitat (Eldridge and Close 2008). It is difficult to estimate population sizes because it is nocturnal, and occurs in very rugged terrain. The species is declining at many localities and the overall population is in decline. The total population size is estimated to be between 15,000 and 30,000 individuals (DECC 2008). The stronghold for the species is within north-eastern New South Wales, containing as much as 80% of the total population – most of which is within the Macleay River and Clarence River gorges (DECC 2008). An estimated 2% of the population occurs elsewhere in New South Wales, 17% within Queensland, and less than 1% in Victoria (DECC 2008).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Brush-tailed Rock Wallabies are found in structurally complex, rocky habitats. Often these areas are gorges, cliffs, rock outcrops, or boulder piles. Most of these sites have a northerly aspect, but this appears not to be as important as rock complexity that contains a number of refuges from predators (Murray et al. 2008). The rocky environments occur within a variety of vegetated landscapes from dense rainforest to dry sclerophyll or open woodland (Eldridge and Close 2008). This species occurs as small colonies, usually with less than 30 individuals, but sometimes more (Piggott et al. 2006). These colonies run the risk of becoming inbred. Highly structured breeding and male dispersal have helped reduce the risk of inbreeding (Hazlitt et al. 2004), but as these colonies become increasingly isolated they are at greater risk (Hazlitt et al. 2006a,b).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There is a lack of data about the threats to the Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby (Eldridge and Close 2008). Predation by introduced foxes and competition with introduced goats are likely to be the greatest threats. Foxes prey on young rock wallabies and probably limit dispersal as well as recruitment. Introduced dogs and cats are also probably threats, but the habitat in which this species lives is not well suited to these predators. Habitat fragmentation and land clearance between colonies is also thought to limit dispersal and reduce numbers of individuals by exposing rock wallabies to higher rates of predation. As colony isolation increases so does the risk of inbreeding (Hazlitt et al. 2006a,b).

Hunting was perhaps the main factor in reducing the population and range of this species. A sustained commercially-driven period of hunting led to the decline of many populations and local extinctions, and may have been the primary cause of the initial decline, at least in central and southern New South Wales. Bounties were paid on over half a million rock-wallabies between 1894 and 1914 (Short and Milkovits 1990) and there was an extensive fur trade from pre-1890 to 1927 (Lunney et al. 1997). The species was also hunted extensively in the Grampians area of Victoria. The magnitude of hunting is apparent when one considers that the current population of the species is estimated at between 15,000 and 30,000 individuals, and in 1908 alone 92,590 skins were marketed by a single company (Lunney et al. 1997).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby is listed as a threatened species under Australian law. It occurs within a number of protected areas. A detailed recovery plan has been developed for the species within New South Wales (DECC 2008).

The recovery of this species is particularly complex and requires a consideration of threats and management interventions at a variety of spatial scales – from local to regional (Murray et al. 2008; DECC 2008). Threats also vary across the range of the species so that, for example, fox predation is considered less of a threat in the northern portion of the range than in the south (DECC 2008). Recommendations from the recovery plan (DECC 2008), include: further surveys to improve knowledge of the distribution and abundance of the species; identifying the main local and widespread threats and the interactions between these; monitoring the effectiveness of management responses; expanding existing predator and introduced herbivore control; maintaining and enhancing captive breeding programs for identified regional populations; and continuing and expanding community-based conservation programs.

Citation: Taggart, D., Menkhorst, P. & Lunney, D. 2008. Petrogale penicillata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 01 July 2015.
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