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Tasmanian Pademelon, Thylogale billardierii

Description

Photo by Peter Grant

The pademelon is a stocky animal with a relatively short tail and legs to aid its movement through dense vegetation. It ranges in colour from dark-brown to grey-brown above and has a red-brown belly. Males, which are considerably larger than females, have a muscular chest and forearms, and reach up to 12 kg in weight and 1 - 1.2 m in overall length, including the tail. Females average 3.9 kg in weight.

The unusual common name, pademelon, is of Aboriginal derivation. It is also sometimes referred to as the rufous wallaby.

Distibution and habitat

Pademelons are solitary and nocturnal, spending the hours of daylight in thick vegetation. Rainforest and wet forest is the preferred habitat, although wet gullies in dry open eucalypt forest are also used. Such habitat next to cleared areas where feeding can occur is especially favoured. After dusk, the animals move onto such open areas to feed, but rarely stray more than 100 metres from the security of the forest edge.

The species is abundant and widespread throughout the state of Tasmania. It is commonly seen around many of the state's national parks.

Diet

The diet of the pademelon consists of herbs and green shoots, with short green grasses being preferred. Mosses are occasionally eaten. Pademelons were undoubtedly important in the thylacine (Tasmanian tiger) diet and are now important in the diet of Tasmanian devils, spotted-tailed quolls and wedge-tailed eagles.

Breeding

Although there is no specific breeding season, 70% of pademelon births occur around the beginning of winter. Gestation is 30 days. Pouch life is 6.5 months. The young are weaned at 7 - 8 months and are sexually mature at 14 - 15 months. Longevity in the wild may be 5 - 6 years.

Status

This species is extinct on mainland Australia because of predation by foxes and large scale land clearance, although two other species of pademelon occur along the east coast of the mainland. In Tasmania, however, the pademelon is both widespread and abundant. Although partially protected, hunting is permitted outside parks and reserves; its pelt is commercially valuable and the meat is quite palatable.