View from the Zoo: Wallaby move keeps genetics diverse

Wallabies at Flamingo Land Resort.
Wallabies at Flamingo Land Resort.

This week has been another busy one for animal moves. Two of our male swamp wallabies left for their new home at Welsh Mountain Zoo near Colwyn bay in Wales.

It is important that we move some of our wallabies around to other zoos to keep the group genetics diverse once the youngsters have grown up. They are able to reproduce from 15-18 months of age and breed relatively successfully all year round.

The move was also necessary for overcrowding reasons. Although wallabies will feed together in the wild, they are typically a solitary animal so if our captive numbers were too high it could lead to excessive aggression and even fighting amongst the group.

Our swamp wallabies are located in our wallaby walkway. In the wild they are found mostly down the east coast of Australia from the northernmost areas of Cape York in Queensland, down the entire east coast and around to south-western Victoria.They get their name from the apparent swampy odour that they produce and in Queensland are known as “stinkers.”

The swamp wallabies’ scientific name is Wallabia bicolour. Due to their slightly different physical and behavioural characteristics they are the only animal in the genus Wallabia, with the rest of wallabies and kangaroos coming under the Macropus genus.

Their diet consists of a range of plants including shrubs, crops an pasture. They also seem to be able to tolerate plants that are toxic to other animals such as braken, lantana and hemlock.

Wallabies are marsupials, which is a class of mammal that carries its young in a pouch as a distinct characteristic. Well-known marsupials include kangaroos, koalas, possums, opossums, wombats and the Tasmanian devil. Other marsupials include the numbat, bandicoots, bettongs, the bilby, quolls, and the quokka.

Marsupials give birth to very small, under developed young which have to make their way from the birth canal to the mother’s pouch where the baby will feed on milk and continue to grow. Young wallabies will generally stay in the pouch for around eight months.