IUCN threat status:

Vulnerable (VU)

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Dusky pademelon or Aru Island wallaby (Thylogale brunii)

The dusky pademelon was discovered by Cornelis de Bruijn and was commonly known as philander, or “friend of man,” and the Aru Island wallaby. The soft, thick fur is typically gray brown to chocolate brown on the upper side of the body. A dark cheek stripe extends from behind the eye to the corner of the mouth. Above this stripe is an area of white fur. The ventral or under side, including the belly, is lighter in color than the dorsal or top side. There may be prominent hip stripes. The tail is relatively short and thick, with a sparse covering of short hair. The pademelon has dark brown, silky-feeling feet and rounded ears. The head and body length is 29-67 cm (11-26 in). The tail is 25-51 cm (10-20 in) long. Males weigh 11-18 kg (24-40 lb) and females 5-9 kg (11-20 lb). Adaptations to its environment include its short tail and compact body, providing added mobility in the thick undergrowth. When not resting or feeding, it can move quickly, hopping on its hind legs with its tail held out stiffly behind. The dusky pademelon occurs in the southern and extreme south-eastern portion of New Guinea and on the Aru and Kai Islands of Indonesia. There are three distinct populations: one in the grasslands surrounding Port Moresby (probably now extinct); one in the Trans-Fly region; and one on the Aru and Kai islands. The pademelon occurs only in lowland primary tropical moist forest, arid and tropical savannahs, shrublands, lowlands, grasslands, with adjacent forest cover, forest-savanna mosaic and degraded forest close to sea level. It is confined to the gallery forests in the southern portion of its range and does not occur in the adjacent grasslands.

The pademelon spends its time on the ground. It is typically solitary and socializes primarily for mating and occasionally while grazing in clearings. It travel large distances to find food, moving through the forest from dawn to dusk, resting between mid-morning and mid-afternoon. After dusk, it moves into grassy areas to graze. It makes runways or tunnels through the forest undergrowth and grasses as it moves to and from grazing sites. It has been described as inoffensive and curious, even letting observers approach it before moving away. It thumps the ground with its hind feet like rabbits do in what is presumed to be a warning signal. It forages in the undergrowth of the forest, feeding by day on grass, leaves, shoots, and fruit. Under the cover of night, it grazes in clearings and at the forest’s edge, usually going only a short distance from the treeline. Predation by non-native red foxes was thoght to be the primary reason for the extinction of this pademelon on mainland Australia. Predators include feral cats, dingoes, wedge-tailed eagles, red foxes, the Tasmanian devil and spotted-tailed quolls. Human activities that impact populations include roadkill; loss of natural habitats from clearing and fragmentation of forests for management, agricultural purposes, and urban development. Hunting them in grasslands and pastures where they are considered to be pests also decreases populations. The pademelon breeds throughout the year. The male clucks softly to the female he has chosen to be his mate, producing a sound similar to that made by females calling to their young. Fertilization is internal. Females have a fold of abdominal skin forming a fur-lined pouch. The gestation period lasts for 30 days after which usually one helpless, blind, and furless embryo, called a joey, is born. Immediately after birth, the joey crawls from the birth canal into the mother’s pouch where it attaches to one of four teats. It will continue to live and develop from its immature state inside the pouch until it is about six months old, when it ventures outside. The joey returns to the pouch to suckle until it is weaned between 8 and 12 months. It reaches sexual maturity at 14-15 months. It lives about 10 years in protected environments; captives can live up to 9.4 years. It is thought to live 5-6 years in the wild. The IUCN listed the dusky pademelon was listed as Vulnerable in 2008, as it is estimated and projected to be undergoing a 30% population reduction over a 15-20 year period (three generations), due to local hunting (with dogs) for food. It is extremely sensitive to hunting and seems to have been extirpated from the south-eastern portion of its range. The south-eastern population, close to Port Moresby, probably has been extirpated, due to hunting. The subpopulation on the Aru Islands is abundant, but is very susceptible to hunting due to an increasing human population. The southern New Guinea subpopulation, in the Trans-Fly plain area, is thought to be fairly common, largely because of low human population density and political instability. The pademelon is not found in any protected areas. The Australian government is taking measures to protect and monitor its red-bellied, red-necked, and red-legged pademelon populations. Establishing parks and nature reserves is playing an important role in conservation efforts and hunting of pademelons is now prohibited.

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