Raise the alarm!! This is the adorable Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby (Onychogalea fraenata) and there are only around 500 individuals left in the entire world. The small wallaby is named for its three distinguishing characteristics; a white “bridle” line that runs down from the back of the neck around the shoulders, and the horny spur on the end of its tail.
At the time of European settlement, bridled nail-tail wallabies were common all along the East Australian coastline region to the west of the Great Dividing Range.The species declined in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with no confirmed sightings between 1937 and 1973, by which time it was believed to be extinct. After reading an article in a magazine about Australia’s extinct species, a fencing contractor reported that there was an extant population on a property near Dingo, Queensland.
This sparked an immediate call to action and conservation efforts through private organizations have worked to establish a viable population. Captive breeding programs have allowed the establishment of three populations; two in State reserves located at Idalia and Taunton National Parks, and another on a private reserve, Project Kial, located near Marlborough in the Central Queensland region.
In spite of the tremendous recovery efforts, this cute little wallaby still remains a highly endangered species. Major threats to the species are predation by introduced species, namely feral cats and foxes. Protecting habitats from these predators is key to maintaining reserve populations.
An interesting fact to note is that this animal should be saved not only for its obvious value to our natural world as a whole, but also because it possesses some peculiar traits that could prove useful to study. In the words of Central Queensland University based marsupial immunologist Lauren J Young, “These wallabies appear to be able to survive parasite infections, viruses and various diseases more readily than other marsupials.” Who knows what wonders of medicine could be unlocked through researching this endangered species!
To donate to the recovery efforts, visit the Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby Trust.