Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered as Lagorchestes hirsutus unnamed subsp.
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Rufous Hare-Wallaby (Lagorchestes hirsutus) National Recovery Plan (Richards, J.D., 2012) [Recovery Plan] as Lagorchestes hirsutus unnamed subsp..
 
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by the European Red Fox (Environment Australia (EA), 1999a) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by Feral Cats (Environment Australia (EA), 1999b) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.5 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011j) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument] as Lagorchestes hirsutus unnamed subsp..
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
NT:Threatened Species of the Northern Territory-Mala, Rufous Hare-wallaby Lagorchestes hirsutus (central mainland form) (Pavey, C., 2006q) [Information Sheet].
WA:Fauna Species Profiles - Rufous Hare-wallaby or Mala Lagorchestes hirsutus (Gould, 1844) (Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation (WA DEC), 2010i) [Information Sheet].
Non-government
    Documents and Websites
The action plan for threatened Australian macropods 2011-2021 (World Wildlife Fund for Nature - Australia (WWF), 2011).
State Listing Status
WA: Listed as Endangered (Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 (Western Australia): September 2013 list) as Lagorchestes hirsutus ssp. (NTMU2430)
Scientific name Lagorchestes hirsutus unnamed subsp. [66640]
Family Macropodidae:Diprotodonta:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author  
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Other names Lagorchestes hirsutus ssp. (NTMU2430) [84899]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Northern Territory: At the species level, Lagorchestes hirsutus is listed as Extinct in the Wild under the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2000.

South Australia: At the species level, Lagorchestes hirsutus is listed as Endangered under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972.

Lagorchestes hirsutus has four accepted subspecies (AFD 2012; WWF 2011):

  • L. h. bernieri, Bernier Island in Western Australia (WA)
  • L. h. dorreae, Dorre Island in WA
  • L. h. hirsutus, south-west in WA (extinct)
  • L. h. unnamed subspecies, central Australia and Trimouille Island in WA

The island subspecies (L. h. dorreae and L. h. bernieri) have far less genetic diversity than the Mala (Eldridge et al. 2004).

The Mala is one of the smaller macropods, with fur that is a "rich sandy buff" colour that increases in length towards the lower back, giving the animals a "shaggy" appearance from which the specific name hirsutus is derived (Troughton 1967 cited in Richards 2012). The subspecies is rabbit-sized, has an average weight of 1750 g and displays no significant sexual dimorphism (physical differences between sexes) (Richards et al. 2001 cited in Richards 2012).

The Mala was once widespread throughout the arid and semi arid parts of central and western Australia, with early travellers commenting on its abundance (Johnson & Burbidge 2008). Declines were rapid from the 1930s to 1950s and the subspecies persisted in the Great Sandy and Gibson Deserts until the 1950s (Johnson & Burbidge 2008). Two remnant populations persisted in the Tanami Desert, Northern Territory (NT) where they were studied in the 1970s and 1980s (Bolton & Latz 1978; Pearson 1989) but became extinct between 1987 and 1991 (Johnson et al. 1996). The Mala is now limited to captive colonies and reintroduced populations (Johnson & Burbidge 2008).

The Mala captive colony was established in Alice Springs using 10 males and 12 females (Gibson et al. 1995) and captive colonies are now held at Watarrka National Park, Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park and Alice Springs Desert Park in the NT, the Peron Captive Breeding Centre within François Peron National Park in Western Australia (WA), and Scotia Sanctuary in New South Wales (Richards 2012). Previously, a population was held at Dryandra Field Breeding Facility in WA (Richards 2012).

There is a translocated population on Trimouille Island (520 hectares), in the Montebello Islands Conservation Park off the Pilbara Coast in WA, after translocation from the Tanami Desert to that site in 1998 (Langford & Burbidge 2001). The population began with 30 individuals and ranges throughout the island and was last estimated to number more than 120 (estimate based on tracks and droppings) (Richards 2005 cited in WWF 2011). Mala reintroduction attempts outside of fenced areas in the Tanami Desert in the NT and to François Peron National Park in Shark Bay in WA were not successful (Richards 2012).

The Mala is a key mythological symbol of Aboriginal peoples and was a favoured food (Johnson & Burbidge 2008).

The habitat of the Mala was sandplain and sand dune deserts with spinifex (Triodia spp.) hummock grassland, spinifex on gravelly plains, areas of tussock grasses and shrublands (Johnson & Burbidge 2008). Tanami Desert colonies were formerly associated with saline paleo-drainage systems with scattered patches of Melaleuca shrubs, sand dunes and fine-scale mosaic fire patterns (Johnson & Burbidge 2008; Richards 2012). Large areas of spinifex desert appear suitable, provided that exotic predators and rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are at low densities or controlled and fire is properly managed (Langford 2000 cited in Richards 2012).

A population of Mala reintroduced into François Peron National Park in 2001 was shown to use dense shrub areas dominated by Lamarchea hakeifolia, rather than adjacent areas supporting spinifex (Richards 2012).

Aborigines were described as hunting the Mala through spinifex-mulga country, which suggests that the subspecies may have occurred in a variety of habitats (Finlayson 1935 cited in Richards 2012).

Habitat critical to the survival of the species

Habitat critical to the survival of the species includes areas occupied by translocated populations (i.e. Trimouille Island), potential habitat that present opportunities for reintroduction of the species within the next ten years, and additional potential habitat sites that have predator control (Richards 2012).

Potential habitat that present opportunities for reintroduction of the species within the next 10 years include a number of sites managed for the conservation of other threatened species: Dirk Hartog Island National Park, Lorna Glen in WA and Mount Gibson Sanctuary. All these conservation sites have programs to control introduced predators and represent locations thought to be within the past range of the Mala (Richards 2012). The importance of fire in the creation of habitat mosaics may also be important in assisting with the choice of sites for mainland reintroductions of the Mala to spinifex grassland. Suitable areas of habitat would include those characterised by a mosaic of vegetation in various stages of fire succession, including areas of burnt spinifex offering food from plants regenerating after fire and unburnt spinifex offering refuge areas (Bolton & Latz 1978; Richards 2012).

In captive studies, male-male aggression was high, while females displayed more tolerance of other animals, indicating a solitary lifestyle. Many aspects of their social behaviour were considered more similar to Potoroidae (bettongs or potoroos) than to Macropodidae (kangaroos) (Lundie-Jenkins 1993a). In captivity, births occurred in all months, and the duration of pouch life was 114-131 days. Sexual maturity was 5-23 months for females and 14-15 months for males (Lundie-Jenkins 1993b).

Throughout the historic range of the subspecies, Aboriginal people used fire during the cool-dry season to clear areas of mature spinifex grassland in sandplain and dune country to facilitate the search for burrowed prey, including the Mala (Bird et al. 2013). The ecosystem engineering of effects of small mosaic burning may have benefited the Mala as it is a browser that feeds on plants in many different successional stages and requires mature spinifex hummocks for nesting and predator protection (Bird et al. 2013). Prior to the 1950s, they were abundant and hunted frequently by Martu people throughout the spinifex sandplains, but the continued persistence of the species may be dependent on patch mosaic burning to maintain access to early successional habitat adjacent to mature spinifex which provides refuge from predators (Bird et al. 2013).

The Mala is a selective feeder whose diet consists primarily of shoots and seeds of monocots (grasses and sedges) with a smaller contribution from dicots and a minor component of insects (Lundie-Jenkins et al. 1993a; Pearson 1989).

Fire is a major threat to the subspecies and extensive wildfires were considered responsible for the extinction of one of the two last wild colonies (Johnson et al. 1996). An appropriate fire regime which permits a mosaic of different plant-successional stages is considered important for this species (Lundie-Jenkins 1993c).

Feral cats (Felis catus) were responsible for several deaths at the Yinapaka and Lingkartajarra release sites in 1991 (Gibson et al. 1994) and foxes (Vulpes vulpes) were implicated in the extinction of one one of the two last wild colonies (Gibson et al. 1995). Because of the high risk of predation, attempts have been made to train Malas to avoid cats and foxes prior to release (McLean et al. 1995, 1996).

Competition from rabbits and habitat destruction by cattle (Bos sp.) and camels (Camelus dromedarius) are also important threats (Lundie-Jenkins et al. 1993a). Capture myopathy (capture induced stress) has been identified as a potential problem in this subspecies and should be considered when managing captive animals for translocation (Cole et al. 1994).

The Action Plan for Threatened Australian Macropods 2011-2021 (WWF 2011) includes the following recovery objectives at the species level to be met by 2021:

  • downlist to near threatened under IUCN criteria
  • increase the area of occupancy to 20 km2 with populations secure at more than five locations within that range
  • numbers in the wild are stable or increasing
  • population management plans developed and implemented to reduce the threats of introduced predators and fire
  • genetic diversity maintained at known 2011 levels.

The Rufous Hare-Wallaby (Lagorchestes hirsutus) National Recovery Plan (Richards 2012) includes the following actions relevant to the Mala:

  • Maintain captive Mala populations.
  • Maintain and monitor the Trimouille Island Mala population.
  • Reintroduction of the Mala to mainland and island sites.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Lagorchestes hirsutus unnamed subsp.in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006ok) [Internet].
Ecology of the rufous hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes hirsutus Gould (Marsupialia: Macropodidae), in the Tanami Desert, Northern Territory. 2. Diet and feeding strategy. Wildlife Research. 20:477-494. (Lundie-Jenkins, G., C.M. Phillips & P.J. Jarman, 1993a) [Journal].
Biological Resource Use:Hunting and Collecting Terrestrial Animals:Harvesting for scientific purposes Lagorchestes hirsutus unnamed subsp.in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006ok) [Internet].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Restricted geographical distribution (area of occupancy and extent of occurrence) Lagorchestes hirsutus unnamed subsp.in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006ok) [Internet].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Oryctolagus cuniculus (Rabbit, European Rabbit) Lagorchestes hirsutus unnamed subsp.in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006ok) [Internet].
Ecology of the rufous hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes hirsutus Gould (Marsupialia: Macropodidae), in the Tanami Desert, Northern Territory. 2. Diet and feeding strategy. Wildlife Research. 20:477-494. (Lundie-Jenkins, G., C.M. Phillips & P.J. Jarman, 1993a) [Journal].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Vulpes vulpes (Red Fox, Fox) Lagorchestes hirsutus unnamed subsp.in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006ok) [Internet].
The rufous hare-wallaby Lagorchestes hirsutus: a history of experimental reintroduction in the Tanami Desert, Northern Territory. In: Serena, M , ed. Reintroduction biology of Australian and New Zealand fauna. Page(s) 171-176. (Gibson D.F., K.A. Johnson, D.G. Langford, J.R. Cole, D.E. Clarke & Willowra Community, 1995) [Book].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Felis catus (Cat, House Cat, Domestic Cat) Lagorchestes hirsutus unnamed subsp.in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006ok) [Internet].
Predation by feral cats, Felis catus, on the rufous hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes hirsutus, in the Tanami Desert. Australian Mammalogy. 17:103-107. (Gibson, D.F., G. Lundie-Jenkins, D.G. Langford, J.R. Cole, D.E. Clarke & K.A. Johnson, 1994) [Journal].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Grazing, tramping, competition and/or habitat degradation Camelus dromedarius (Dromedary, Camel) Lagorchestes hirsutus unnamed subsp.in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006ok) [Internet].
Ecology of the rufous hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes hirsutus Gould (Marsupialia: Macropodidae), in the Tanami Desert, Northern Territory. 2. Diet and feeding strategy. Wildlife Research. 20:477-494. (Lundie-Jenkins, G., C.M. Phillips & P.J. Jarman, 1993a) [Journal].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) Lagorchestes hirsutus unnamed subsp.in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006ok) [Internet].
Recovery of the mala Lagorchestes hirsutus: a 30-year unfinished journey. In: Stephens, S. & S. Maxwell, eds. Back from the brink: refining the threatened species recovery process. Page(s) 155-161. (Johnson K.A., D.F. Gibson, D.G. Langford & J.R. Cole, 1996) [Book].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals Lagorchestes hirsutus unnamed subsp.in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006ok) [Internet].

Australian Faunal Directory (AFD) (2012). Australian Faunal Directory. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/online-resources/fauna/afd/home.

Bird R.B., N. Tayor, B.F. Codding & D.W. Bird (2013). Niche construction and Dreaming logic: aboriginal patch mosaic burning and varanid lizards (Varanus gouldii) in Australia. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 280:20132297.

Bolton, B.L. & P.K. Latz (1978). The western hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes hirsutus (Gould) (Macropodidae), in the Tanami Desert. Australian Wildlife Research. 5:285-293.

Cole, J.R., D.G. Langford & D.F. Gibson (1994). Capture myopathy in Lagorchestes hirsutus (Marsupialia: Macropodidae). Australian Mammalogy. 17:137-138.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2011j). Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened mammals. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.5. [Online]. EPBC Act policy statement: Canberra, ACT: DSEWPAC. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/threatened-mammals.html.

Eldridge, M.D.B., J.E. Kinnear, K.R. Zenger, L.M. McKenzie & P.B.S. Spencer (2004). Genetic diversity in remnant mainland and "pristine" island populations of three endemic Australian macropodids (Marsupialia): Macropus eugenii, Lagorchestes hirsutus and Petrogale lateralis. Conservation Genetics. 5:325-338.

Gibson D.F., K.A. Johnson, D.G. Langford, J.R. Cole, D.E. Clarke & Willowra Community (1995). The rufous hare-wallaby Lagorchestes hirsutus: a history of experimental reintroduction in the Tanami Desert, Northern Territory. In: Serena, M , ed. Reintroduction biology of Australian and New Zealand fauna. Page(s) 171-176. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton.

Gibson, D.F., G. Lundie-Jenkins, D.G. Langford, J.R. Cole, D.E. Clarke & K.A. Johnson (1994). Predation by feral cats, Felis catus, on the rufous hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes hirsutus, in the Tanami Desert. Australian Mammalogy. 17:103-107.

Johnson K.A., D.F. Gibson, D.G. Langford & J.R. Cole (1996). Recovery of the mala Lagorchestes hirsutus: a 30-year unfinished journey. In: Stephens, S. & S. Maxwell, eds. Back from the brink: refining the threatened species recovery process. Page(s) 155-161. Surrey Beatty & Sons Pty Ltd, Chipping Norton.

Johnson, K.A. & A.A. Burbidge (2008). Rufous Hare-wallaby Lagorchestes hirsutus Gould, 1844. In: Van Dyck, S. & R. Strahan, eds. The Mammals of Australia - Third Edition. Reed New Holland.

Langford, D.C. & A.A. Burbidge (2001). Translocation of the mala (Lagorchestes hirsutus) from the Tanami Desert, Northern Territory, to Trimouille Island, Western Australia. Australian Mammalogy. 23:37-46.

Lundie-Jenkins, G. (1993b). Reproduction and growth to sexual maturity in the rufous hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes hirsutus Gould, (Marsupialia: Macropodidae) in captivity. Australian Mammalogy. 16:45-49.

Lundie-Jenkins, G. (1993c). Ecology of the rufous hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes hirsutus Gould (Marsupialia: Macropodidae), in the Tanami Desert, Northern Territory. 1. Patterns of habitat use. Wildlife Research. 20:457-476.

Lundie-Jenkins, G., C.M. Phillips & P.J. Jarman (1993a). Ecology of the rufous hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes hirsutus Gould (Marsupialia: Macropodidae), in the Tanami Desert, Northern Territory. 2. Diet and feeding strategy. Wildlife Research. 20:477-494.

McLean I.G., G. Lundie-Jenkins & P.J. Jarman (1995). Training captive rufous hare-wallabies to recognize predators. In: Serena, M., ed. Reintroduction biology of Australian and New Zealand fauna. Page(s) 177-182. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton.

McLean I.G., G. Lundie-Jenkins & P.J. Jarman (1996). Teaching an endangered mammal to recognize predators. Biological Conservation. 75:51-62.

Pearson, D.J. (1989). The diet of the rufous hare-wallaby (Marsupalia: Macropodidae) in the Tanami Desert. Australian Wildlife Research. 16:527-535.

Richards, J.D. (2012). Rufous Hare-Wallaby (Lagorchestes hirsutus) National Recovery Plan. [Online]. Western Australia Department of Environment and Conservation. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/rufous-hare-wallaby.html.

Strahan, R. (Ed.) (1998). The Mammals of Australia, Second Edition, rev. Sydney, NSW: Australian Museum and Reed New Holland.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Lagorchestes hirsutus unnamed subsp. in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Fri, 25 Jul 2014 22:21:11 +1000.