Black-flanked rock-wallaby, Central Wheatbelt, 20 October 2007. / ©: Craig Pentland
Black-flanked rock-wallabies are small but highly agile marsupials. Although still quite widespread, since the arrival of Europeans and foxes they have suffered many local extinctions1 and their distribution is now greatly reduced2. Remaining populations are very isolated3 and they are now considered to be at risk of extinction.

Fortunately their preference for living in rocky outcrops and caves has helped them survive as much of the rest of the landscape has been cleared for farming, and has provided some refuge from the dreaded introduced predators that have decimated Australia’s mammal fauna: foxes and cats.

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  • Common name

    Black-flanked rock-wallaby

  • Scientific name

    Petrogale lateralis

  • Height

    Only half a metre tall

  • Appearance

    Thick, woolly fur, grey or brown on their backs with dark stripe from between the ears to below the shoulders. Paler fur on chest and dark brown on the belly. Long tail, getting darker and slightly bushy towards the tip. Dark brown faces with a pale stripe across each cheek. Feet may be sandy coloured with black toes.

  • Habitat

    Rocky escarpment country, granite outcrops, gorges, cliffs or scree slopes with surrounding grassland, shrubs or woodland.[v]. Narrow crevices and small caves are critical for shelter from extremes of heat and cold and to provide some protection from predators.

  • Status

    Vulnerable (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) Near threatened (IUCN 2010)

  • Did you know?

    The soles of their hindfeet are coarse, acting much like the sole of a running shoe, providing friction and helping them grip as they bounce around the rocks at high speed.

Black-flanked rock-wallaby. Kellerberrin area, Southwest Australia’s central Wheatbelt granites. ... / ©: Phil Lewis & Mike Griffiths / WWF-Aus
Black-flanked rock-wallaby. Kellerberrin area, Southwest Australia’s central Wheatbelt granites. 19th and 20th January 2012.
© Phil Lewis & Mike Griffiths / WWF-Aus

Black-flanked rock-wallabies are shy creatures, cautiously emerging from their caves to feed on grasses, leaves, bark and fruits4 but not straying far from the shelter of their rocky homes if they can help it5. They don’t usually need to drink, as they obtain water from their food and they conserve it by avoiding the heat of the day inside their caves. However they are sometimes known to drink from soaks, puddles or ‘gnammas’ (holes or depressions in the rock).

They are more active at night, but if the weather is favourable, they can sometimes be seen in the daytime, sunning themselves on a favourite rock or bounding expertly across the steep and rugged terrain.
Black-flanked rock-wallaby. Kellerberrin area, Southwest Australia’s central Wheatbelt granites. 10 ... / ©: Phil Lewis & Mike Griffiths / WWF-Aus
Black-flanked rock-wallaby. Kellerberrin area, Southwest Australia’s central Wheatbelt granites. 10 February 2012.
© Phil Lewis & Mike Griffiths / WWF-Aus

What's with the name?

This species is known by many names in English and traditional Indigenous Australian languages, including: warru (or waru), black-flanked rock-wallaby, black-footed rock-wallaby, side-striped rock-wallaby, bokal, moororong, kakuya , lungkarrpa, pakultarra, rukapiki, tanpa, tjinangalku, tjirti, wartilara, wokartji, arrwe or kavtetve6. The Latin name, Petrogale lateralis, means ‘notable-sided rock-weasel’7 – although these charming animals look nothing like a weasel, and are not even distantly related to them!

Scientists have divided the species into three subspecies and two races:
• Petrogale lateralis lateralis
• Petrogale lateralis hacketii
• Petrogale lateralis pearsoni
• Petrogale lateralis (MacDonnell Ranges race)
• Petrogale lateralis (Kimberley race)8

The different subspecies and races are most easily distinguished by their geographic range and differences in the number and shape of their chromosomes, with some additional differences in their size and fur colour.9

Petrogale lateralis species group, showing pre-European distribution (green), current distribution (blue) and re-introduced populations (red). © New Holland Publishers, reproduced with permission from Van Dyck, S. & Strahan, R. (Eds) (2008) The Mammals of Australia 3rd Edition, New Holland Publishers, Sydney.

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