Living wild: A special sort of roo

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By Jane Baker

ENVIRONMENT: Several years ago a man driving the Rye Park Road rescued a joey from a dead kangaroo pouch. When he arrived late at night at our front door with this little orphan, the man said of the dead mother, “she was one of those different ‘roos, one of those special ones”.

He was right. That little joey was different. She was a wallaroo (macropus robustus) and she was beautiful.

Even though she was just velvet, (her skin darkening, a prelude to furring) she had the typical bare nose (a bit like a dog’s) and black-ringed cloaca* of a wallaroo. Her tiny paws were broad and plumply padded and her little feet already showed the well-padded leather common to species who spend their lives among the rocks.

This little wallaroo was my introduction to one of the loveliest animals living wild in the Yass Valley.

Her fur, as it came through, was long and rather shaggy, and a lovely blue grey.

Her belly was mist grey and her large rounded ears were furred white around their edges.

Her thighs and rump grew broad and muscled while her legs, which were shorter than those of a kangaroo, giving her a lower centre and thus a more powerful spring, ended in thick feet with fur feathering their leathers on each side.

Even as a little one, she could leap to amazing heights from a standing start.

From the moment Alice emerged from her artificial pouch she was wallaroo through and through.

She would dash madly hither and thither via every high point she find – the couch, the coffee table, the bed.

Because her future lay back among the granite boulders of our yellow hills and woodlands this dashing and leaping was essential to her development.

When she crashed to sleep it was always on the highest point she could find, preferably somewhere secluded (top shelf of a wardrobe, for instance). After all, she would be sleeping high among the rocks, in caves or under rock overhangs in the future.

Wallaroos are not mob animals like kangaroos.

They live in small family groups of four or five, sleeping most of the day high on a slope and emerging at twilight to graze on native grasses down on the flats. Wallaroos, like kangaroos, are watchful creatures and you will typically see them standing very straight, arms close to their ribs and wrists raised, with their long aristocratic faces alert for danger.

Startled, they will bolt with high springing bounds.

We are lucky to share our valley with such beautiful creatures. If we maintain the fight against foxes, control our dogs at all times, drive with due care for wildlife and remove barbed wire on our properties, our children will enjoy the wallaroos as we do now.

* A cloaca is the furred organ on the lower belly of mammals that protects their genitalia and urinary and defecatory equipment, all of which are held internally.

A juvenile wallaroo in care. PHOTO: Peter Dickens

A juvenile wallaroo in care. PHOTO: Peter Dickens

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