Discover the Enigmatic Mareeba Rock Wallaby: Australia’s Unique Marsupial

The Mareeba rock wallaby (Petrogale mareeba) is a fascinating and unique species of rock wallaby native to northeastern Queensland, Australia.  This rare marsupial falls under the “near threatened” category regarding its conservation status.  It was emphasising the importance of preserving its habitat and population.

Mareeba Rock Wallaby


The Mareeba rock wallaby belongs to the genus Petrogale, which includes seven closely related species, such as the Cape York rock wallaby, the unadorned rock wallaby, and the allied rock wallaby.  It’s worth noting that scientists only recognised it as a distinct species in 1992. The name “Mareeba” comes from the area where it’s mainly located, which mirrors its distribution.

Distribution and Habitat

The Mareeba Rock Wallaby primarily inhabits the highlands west of Cairns, and its range extends from Mount Garnet to the Mitchell River and Mount Carbine.
It also inhabits the inland areas near Mungana, primarily on the tops of specific mountain ranges.  To see these exceptional creatures in their native environment, you can visit the Granite Gorge Nature Park, roughly 60 kilometres (37 miles) from Cairns.  You can also join the Chillagoe Caves outback tour from Cairns which visits Granite Gorge.


Rock wallabies thrive in habitats with rocky outcrops, slopes, cliffs, gorges, or boulder piles and escarpments, especially in the wet-dry tropics.  Their unique ability to scale steep rock faces and leap in ways that defy gravity is due to adaptations in their feet and tails.  Their feet are short relative to other macropods, and they have thick, spongy, and highly granulated pads that provide excellent grip on rocky surfaces.  They have long, cylindrical tails that act as counterbalances and rudders during rapid hopping across uneven terrain, allowing them to change direction mid-air.

Reproductive Behaviour

Mareeba rock wallabies

While the reproductive behaviour of the Mareeba rock-wallaby has not been extensively described, it is believed that they are likely polygamous since they live in large colonies.  They are also thought to breed throughout the year, with a possible concentration of large pouches of young and young-at-foot during months that typically receive the highest rainfall.

Understanding and protecting the Mareeba rock wallaby and its habitat is crucial to ensuring the continued existence of this remarkable species.

Conservation efforts and awareness are essential to help maintain the biodiversity of Australia’s unique wild life.

Family Macropodidae

Kangaroos and marsupials belong to the family Macropodidae, meaning “big feet.” This family is grouped with other marsupials like potoroos, bettongs, and rat-kangaroos in the Super-Family Macropodoidea.  In Australia, there are approximately 50 species of kangaroos, with New Guinea hosting a dozen or more.  These marsupials are known for their distinctive hopping locomotion, making them the largest vertebrates to hop, both in the present and in paleontological records.

The impact of pastoralism on smaller marsupials in Australia was significant, leading to the extinction of some species like the yellow footed rock wallabies, burrowing bettongs, pig-footed and golden bandicoots, bilbies, and possibly hairy nosed wombats.  However, the larger kangaroo species have fared better and continue to inhabit much of their original range.  Grey kangaroos, for instance, have expanded inland as grazing habitat increased, while coastal habitat was lost due to agriculture.

Rock wallabies

Let’s focus on rock wallabies, a diverse genus within the Macropodidae family.  There are 16 species of rock wallabies, ranging in size from 1 to 12 kilogrammes.  They are distributed across mainland Australia and some recently separated offshore islands, excluding areas like the Bass Strait Islands, Tasmania, or New Guinea.

Rock wallabies evolved from a common ancestor approximately 4 million years ago.  Their closest relatives, among other macropods, are the tree kangaroos.  The diversification of rock wallaby species occurred in two waves.  The first wave gave rise to species like the short-eared rock wallaby, the Monjon, the Narbelek, the yellow footed rock wallaby, and the Proserpine Rock wallaby.  Around a million years ago, the second wave resulted in species that may not be as morphologically distinctive as those along the Queensland seaboard.

These adaptations make rock wallabies remarkable and well-suited to their rocky environments, showcasing the incredible diversity and adaptations within Australia’s marsupial family, Macropodidae.

FAQ’s Mareeba Rock Wallaby

Q. What is the Mareeba Rock Wallaby?

A.  The Mareeba Rock Wallaby (Petrogale mareeba) is a unique marsupial species in northeastern Queensland, Australia.

Q. Where is the Mareeba Rock Wallaby primarily located?

A.  These rock wallabies are primarily found in the highlands west of Cairns.  Ranging from Mount Garnet to the Mitchell River and Mount Carbine.

Q. What is the conservation status of the Mareeba Rock Wallaby?

A.  The Mareeba Rock Wallaby is categorised as “near threatened,” emphasising the need for conservation efforts to protect its habitat and population.

Q. Can I observe Mareeba Rock Wallabies in their natural habitat?

A.  You can watch these unique creatures in their natural habitat at places like the Granite Gorge Nature Park, located approximately 60 kilometres (37 miles) inland from Cairns.

Q. What sets Mareeba Rock Wallabies apart from other marsupials?

A.  One distinguishing feature is their ability to scale steep rock faces and leap with agility, thanks to their foot and tail adaptations.

Q. How can I contribute to the conservation of Mareeba Rock Wallabies?

A.  Supporting conservation organisations and initiatives focused on preserving their habitat and raising awareness about this species is a meaningful way to help.

Q. Are there any ongoing research projects related to Mareeba Rock Wallabies?

A.  Ongoing research aims to understand their behaviour, breeding patterns, and habitat needs to inform conservation efforts.

Q. What is the history of Mareeba Rock Wallabies in terms of evolution and diversification?

A.  Mareeba Rock Wallabies diversified from a common ancestor around 4 million years ago, resulting in various species with unique adaptations.

Q. Are there any threats to the Mareeba Rock Wallaby population?

A.  Habitat loss and other human factors threaten these marsupials, making conservation crucial.