Skip links and keyboard navigation

Yellow-footed rock-wallaby

A yellow-footed rock-wallaby in Hell Hole Gorge National Park  Photo: Bryan Walsh

A yellow-footed rock-wallaby in Hell Hole Gorge National Park Photo: Bryan Walsh

Common name: yellow-footed rock-wallaby

Scientific name: Petrogale xanthopus celeris

Family: Macropodidae

Conservation status: This species is listed as Vulnerable in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992), and nationally (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). It is ranked as a high priority under the department's Back on Track species prioritisation framework.

Description: The yellow-footed rock-wallaby is a medium-sized, brightly coloured wallaby with oversized feet and a long tail. It grows up to 65cm with a tail length of 70cm. This rock-wallaby has a very distinctive coat that is grey on their back, a rich orange to bright yellow on their legs and tail, a white stripe on either side of their cheeks and body, a dark stripe from their forehead to their back, and with dark rings on their tail.

Their large feet and long tail have an important purpose, which is to help balance when hopping along the rugged hills, boulders and cliffs that are part of their habitat.

Habitat and distribution

Yellow-footed rock-wallaby habitat in western Queensland   Photo: D Murphy (Queensland Government)

Yellow-footed rock-wallaby habitat in western Queensland Photo: D Murphy (Queensland Government)

The yellow-footed rock-wallaby Petrogale xanthopus can be found in restricted areas of South Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland. In Queensland it is recognised as a distinct sub-species Petrogale xanthopus celeris, and only occurs in rugged country in a triangular area between Adavale, Blackall and Stonehenge. Within this range the rock-wallabies live in a number of fragmented colonies in Idalia, Welford, Mariala and Hell Hole Gorge National Parks, and also on private land.

As its name indicates, the yellow-footed rock-wallaby is found on rocky country. In the Grey Ranges, where they occur in western Queensland, the wallabies live on the upper slopes, cliff-lines and flat tops of tablelands and hills with low Acacia woodlands or shrublands. The Acacia trees in this area are mainly mulga Acacia aneura and bendee Acacia catenulata, and are important to the wallabies as they not only give cover but are also a source of food. Within this habitat the yellow-footed rock-wallaby requires sites with cliffs, caves and large boulders, which provide the wallabies with suitable shelter and vantage points.

Life history and behaviour

Yellow-footed rock-wallabies  Photo: Queensland Government

Yellow-footed rock-wallabies Photo: Queensland Government

Yellow-footed rock-wallabies are social animals and live in colonies. They reach sexual maturity at 18 months, and usually give birth to a single joey. In their first breeding season they produce an equal number of male and female joeys. However, if female wallabies give birth to another joey in the following season, it is often a male.

As the heat of Outback Queensland can reach over 400C, the yellow-footed rock-wallaby is mainly nocturnal, but it is often active during daylight hours when the weather is cooler.

The yellow-footed rock-wallaby is a herbivore, and feeds on grasses, shrubs and fallen leaves. Because the ground layer of vegetation in their habitat is sparse, the wallabies have limited food choices, and mainly eat a small tufted grass such as Sporobolus caroli, and a species of spindly forb called Sida filiformis. They also graze on a rock sedge Scleria sphacelata, and eat leaves that have fallen from mulga and bendee trees that are an important food source during drought.

The life-span of the yellow-footed rock-wallaby is between three to six years.

Threatening processes

It is hard to imagine that this threatened and shy animal was once widespread and very abundant. Around one cottage in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia during the 1850s it was suggested to build a fence to keep the yellow-footed rock-wallabies out of the garden. However, by the 1880s there were high prices for their skins that fueled the hunting of these animals on a large scale. Although the hunting was stopped in the early twentieth century, the numbers had been greatly reduced, and remaining populations are under threat from predation by the introduced red fox, and competition for food with feral goats and other herbivories.

Recovery actions

The conservation of yellow-footed rock-wallabies in Queensland requires surveys to determine if there have been any changes in their population and, if the population in decline and what is threatening them.

Related information

Eldridge, MDB and Close, RL (1995). Australian Museum complete book of Australia mammals (Ed. R. Strahan), Reed Books.

Gordon, G, McGreevy, DG and Lawrie, BC (1978). The yellow-footed rock-wallaby, Petrogale xanthopus Gray (Macropodidae), in Queensland. Australian Wildlife Research, 5, pp. 295-297.

Gordon, G, McRae, P, Lim, L, Reimer, D and Porter, G (1993). The conservation status of the yellow-footed rock-wallaby in Queensland. Oryx, 27(3), pp. 159-168.

Department of Environment and Energy (2017) Petrogale xanthopus celeris Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of Environment and Energy, Canberra.

Threatened Species Scientific Committee (2016). Approved Conservation Advice for Petrogale xanthopus celeris (yellow-footed rock-wallaby (central-western Queensland)). Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra (PDF).

Last updated
5 January 2018