Banded Hare Wallaby
(Lagostrophus fasciatus)
The banded hare wallaby is thought to be more closely related to an extinct family of short-faced kangaroos than to any living species of kangaroo or wallaby. It was one of the first kangaroos to be seen by Europeans when they first arrived in Australia, leading researchers to believe that it was one of the most populous species in the country. However, the introduction of feral cats and grazing animals following European colonisation had a devastating impact on the species, wiping it out from the mainland by 1963. Fortunately, introduced predators have not yet reached the species’ island strongholds, and two small populations have survived to the present day. These two islands require ongoing management to prevent the accidental introduction of cats and foxes which could potentially lead to the extinction of this small charismatic wallaby.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Regular monitoring of populations is needed (annually or biannually).
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Diprotodontia
Family: Macropodidae (debated)
Macropodids (marsupial herbivores) live in all regions and habitats of mainland Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania, and on many offshore islands. They are traditionally divided into two subfamilies, the Macropodinae and Potoroinae. The Macropodinae comprises the larger wallabies and euros, while the smaller potoroos and bettongs belong to the Potoroinae. These groups are estimated to have diverged some 20 million years ago.

A third subfamily, Sthenurinae, contained the now extinct short-faced kangaroos. This group of at least 20 species included some of the largest kangaroos ever to have evolved, with some individuals reaching a height of up to 3 m. The short-faced kangaroos were the first kangaroos to become adapted to the drier habitats of the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs. Most, however, disappeared in the extinction of the megafauna in the late Pleistocene.

Morphological data suggest that the banded hare wallaby is more closely related to members of the Sthenurinae than to living marsupial herbivores. This species was once thought to be the sole survivor of this ancient group. However, recent researchers have suggested that the species is sufficiently distinct to be placed in its own subfamily, the Lagostrophinae, which is the sister group (i.e. most closely related group) to the Sthenurinae.

Two subspecies of banded hare wallaby have been described: Lagostrophus fasciatus fasciatus from Bernier, Dorre and possibly Dirk Hartog Islands, and L. f. albipilis from the south-west of Western Australia. These groups are thought to have diverged around 8,000 years ago when rising sea levels cut the islands off from the mainland. L. f. albipilis has not been recorded since 1906 and is now considered extinct, leaving the island populations of banded hare wallaby the sole survivors of this ancient lineage.
Head and body length: 400 – 460 mm
Weight: 1.3 – 3 kg
This small wallaby is referred to as hare wallaby because of its hare-like speed, its jumping ability and its habit of crouching in a “form”. Its thick, shaggy fur is greyish in colour and speckled with yellow and silver. The lower back is traversed by black stripes which contrast sharply with the general greyish colouration. The underparts are greysih-white, and the hands, feet and tail are grey. The tail is evenly haired throughout except for an inconspicuous pencil of longer hairs at the tip. The muzzle is long and pointed, while the nose itself is hairless. The claws of the hind feet are hidden by the fur. The sexes are not dimorphic in color or size.
The banded hare wallaby is nocturnal, emerging at night from retreats in the scrub to feed on various grasses, shrubs and flowering plants. Individuals create runs and “forms” in the tangled masses of Acacia in which they live. A gregarious species, the wallabies often congregate in spaces under the low-hanging limbs of bushes in dense thickets.

Banded hare wallabies are seasonal breeders with a reproductive peak in the first half of the year. Normal litter size is one, but occasionally twins are born. The species is thought to have an extended breeding season, occurring at least from February to August. The young (called “joeys”) spend at least six months in the pouch and are weaned around three months later. Like other kangaroo species, the females are able to delay the development of the fertilised egg (called ‘embryonic diapause’) if they have a joey in their pouch. The embryo is ‘reactivated’ if the joey dies, or is almost old enough to leave the pouch. Although sexual maturity is reached in the first year, breeding does not usually take place until the second year. In the wild, banded hare wallabies can live at least six years.
The species usually lives in woodlands with thick, dense shrubs, particularly those dominated by the thorny Acacia ligulata, which are used for shelter during the day. The islands on which they live have a Mediterranean climate, warm with moderate rainfall and distinct wet and dry seasons.
Endemic to Australia. The banded hare wallaby was formerly present on the mainland from south-western parts of the country to the lower Murray River region. However, it has not been recorded from the mainland since 1906. Today the species is found only on Bernier and Dorre Islands in Shark Bay, some 50-60 km west of the Australian mainland. Bernier Island is approximately 44 km2 and Dorre Island 53 km2. A small population was recently reintroduced to Faure Island.
Population Estimate
There are no recent population estimates. In 1992 the total population was estimated to number around 9,700.
Population Trend
Classified as Endangered (EN B1ac(iv)+2ac(iv)) on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The disappearance of banded hare wallabies from the Australian mainland is thought to have been driven by a combination of habitat loss, resulting from the clearance of vegetation for agriculture, and predation from introduced feral cats.

The current major threats to the island populations of this species include the accidental introduction of exotic predators such as cats and foxes and, to a lesser extent, rabbits, rats and mice. Bernier and Dorre Islands currently remain free of introduced predators and are therefore the banded hare-wallaby’s last stronghold. However, the animals are defenceless against bushfire and introduced predators. Furthermore, since all populations of this species occur in a small geographical area (i.e. confined to islands in Shark Bay), they are vulnerable to localised threats such as extreme weather events. This is another cause for concern, particularly as such weather events are becoming ever more unpredictable.
Conservation Underway
The banded hare wallaby is listed on CITES Appendix I and as a threatened species under Australian law. Conservation of the remnant populations at Bernier and Dorre Islands is essential to the survival of the species. Both islands are protected as part of the Bernier and Dorre Islands Class A Nature Reserve 24869 (about 9,719 ha) and all areas where the species has been reintroduced are also protected.

A species recovery plan was developed for the period 2005-2010, and is currently being implemented. Recommendations include protecting wild populations and their habitat, maintaining captive populations, investigating the viability of wild, current and potential reintroduced populations, and enhancing community participation and education. The recovery plan also recommended initiating three reintroductions to the mainland within a five year period.

Captive populations are currently held at the Peron Captive Breeding Facility and the Dryandra Captive Breeding Facility, though the latter has experienced problems with aerial predation by the wedge-tailed eagle. There was an unsuccessful attempt at a reintroduction to Dirk Hartog Island in 1974, and another to the mainland at Peron Peninsula in 2001, which failed primarily due to cat predation.  More recently, a small population of banded hare wallabies was successfully reintroduced to Fauré Island following the removal of goats from the island. This reintroduced population is potentially more secure due to the lack of introduced predators and lower chance of invasion. However, it is likely that existing management and resource provisions will need to continue in perpetuity to ensure the long-term viability of any reintroduced populations.
Conservation Proposed
Regular monitoring of populations is needed (annually or biannually).
Nilsson, M. et al. 2006. Phylogenetic relationships of the Banded Hare wallaby (Lagostrophus fasciatus) and a map of the kangaroo mitochondrial control region. Zoologica Scripta, 35(4): 387–393.

Prideaux, G. J. and Warburton, N. M. 2010. An osteology-based appraisal of the phylogeny and evolution of kangaroos and wallabies (Macropodidae: Marsupialia). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 159: 954-987.

Richards, J.D. 2003. Report on Threatened Shark Bay Marsupials, Western Barred Bandicoot Perameles bougainville bougainville, Burrowing Bettong Bettongia lesueur lesueur, Banded Hare-wallaby Lagostrophus fasciatus fasciatus, and Rufous Hare-wallabies Lagorchestes hirsutus bernieri and Lagorchestes hirsutus dorreae. Department of Environment and Heritage, Canberra. Available at:


Richards, J., Morris, K., Burbidge, A. & Friend, T. 2008. Lagostrophus fasciatus. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 15 November 2010.

Short, J. and Turner, B. 1992. The distribution and abundance of the banded and rufous hare-wallabies, Lagostrophus fasciatus and Lagorchestes hirsutus. Biological Conservation 60(3): 157-166.

Westerman, M., et al. 2002. Molecular Evidence for the Last Survivor of an Ancient Kangaroo Lineage. Journal of Mammalian Evolution 9(3): 209-223.

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