The Bennett's wallaby has mostly tawny gray fur, with a white chest and belly, and a dark brown muzzle, paws and feet. This wallaby is also known as the red-necked wallaby, because of the red-tinted fur on the back of its neck and shoulders. Bennett's is the name of the subspecies typically found in Tasmania.
These animals have an acute sense of smell and hearing. Their large ears are capable of moving 180 degrees independently, allowing them to remain alert for potential predators, such as dingoes.
As members of the genus Macropus, meaning "long foot," Bennett's wallabies are closely related to kangaroos and wallaroos. This genus includes some, but not all, other wallaby species. Shared adaptations within this genus include highly developed hind legs, a sturdy, tapered tail that aids in balance, a forward-opening pouch with four teats, underdeveloped vocal chords and eyes set high on the skull. In general, wallabies tend to be smaller than kangaroos and wallaroos and can be distinguished by their darker muzzle and paws.
One of the macropods most identifiable traits is their unique form of locomotion. Though best known for hopping, kangaroos, wallaroos and wallabies can also crawl and swim! Hopping is their most efficient means of travel when moving at speeds greater than 9 miles per hour (15 kilometers per hour). At the end of each bounce, when the legs are bent, energy stored in the tendons contributes to extending the leg and the next bounce. This transfer of energy is similar to a pogo stick.
These wallabies are native to the eastern coast of Australia, from mid-Queensland south to Victoria and parts of South Australia. A significant population also exists in Tasmania. Bennett’s wallabies are commonly found in eucalyptus forests and open areas with nearby tree shelter but can tolerate a diversity of habitats, including farmland.
Bennett's wallabies graze on grasses and herbs. During dry spells, roots become their primary water source.
At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, these wallabies eat greens, vegetables, hay and kangaroo biscuits.
Breeding patterns for this species differ depending upon range. Populations in Tasmania tend to reproduce between January and July, with joeys born in greatest frequency in February and March. Mainland wallabies breed year-round, with most joeys born during the Southern Hemisphere's summer months, December, January and February.
After a gestation of just 29 days, Bennett's wallabies are born looking embryonic and weighing less than 1 gram (.04 ounces). The newborn joeys are hairless and underdeveloped but have strong enough forelimbs to climb into their mothers' pouch. The single newborn then latches onto its mother's teat, where it continues to develop.
Pouch life lasts for about nine months, but joeys remain with their mothers, continuing to suckle for an additional three to nine months. Females reach maturity around 14 months and males around 19 months.
Bennett's wallabies experience a postpartum estrus, which can last one to two days after giving birth. If a female breeds successfully within this window, she will undergo embryonic diapause — a type of delayed implantation, where the embryo partially matures and then pauses if another joey is still in the mother's pouch. Only when the pouched joey vacates does the new embryo's development continue.
Bennett's wallabies do not currently face significant conservation threats, but they are sometimes killed because they are seen as pests that compete with sheep and cattle for grazing opportunities. Bennett's wallabies are also harvested commercially for meat and, historically, have been trapped for their fur.
These wallabies have an abundant, stable population and are found in several protected regions within their range. They tolerate many different habitats, including those that have been modified by humans. This species is protected by law in all states, with some controlled windows for licensed hunting or killing.
While their numbers remain strong, there is some controversy over how many macropods can be harvested while still maintaining a reasonable, nonthreatened population, as well as if commercial harvesting is beneficial or detrimental to their overall survival and the public's perception of them as pests. Several species within the genus are still hunted for their skins or as meat for pet food.