Lagorchestes hirsutus

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Rufous Hare-wallaby

(Lagorchestes hirsutus)
NATIONAL Recovery Plan

Wildlife Management Program No. 43



Prepared by

Dr Jacqueline D. Richards

For the Mala Recovery Team, Department of Environment and Conservation (Western Australia), and the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.


© Department of Environment and Conservation

Species and Communities Branch

Locked Bag 104

Bentley Delivery Centre

Western Australia 6983
ISSN 0816-9713

Copyright protects this publication. Except for purposes permitted by the Copyright Act, reproduction by whatever means is prohibited without the prior written consent of the author and the Department of Environment and Conservation (Western Australia).

Cover photograph of the rufous hare-wallaby by Judy Dunlop.

© Judy Dunlop/DEC 2008.


Recovery Plans are developed within the framework laid down in Department of Environment and Conservation Policy Statements Nos 44 and 50.
Recovery Plans outline the recovery actions that are required to address those threatening processes most affecting the ongoing survival of threatened taxa or ecological communities, and begin the recovery process.
Recovery Plans delineate, justify and schedule management actions necessary to support the recovery of threatened species and ecological communities. The attainment of objectives and the provision of funds necessary to implement actions are subject to budgetary and other constraints affecting the parties involved, as well as the need to address other priorities. Recovery Plans do not necessarily represent the views or the official position of individuals or organisations represented on the Recovery Team (Appendix 1).
This Recovery Plan was approved by the Department of Environment and Conservation, Western Australia. Approved Recovery Plans are subject to modification as dictated by new findings, changes in status of the taxon or ecological community and the completion of recovery actions. The provision of funds identified in this Recovery Plan is dependent on budgetary and other constraints affecting the Department, as well as the need to address other priorities.
Information in this Recovery Plan was accurate at 2012.

Table of Contents






2.1. Taxonomy and description 3

2.2. Distribution 3

2.3 Status of populations 6



Figure 4: The location of current captive and introduced rufous hare-wallaby populations throughout Australia, and introduction and reintroduction sites (including proposed). 9

2.4 Habitat 9

2.5 Legislative status 10

2.6 Biology and ecology 11

2.7 Known and potential threats 13

Populations under threat 17


3.1 Previous and existing conservation measures 19

3.2 Recovery objectives and performance criteria 21

3.3 Recovery actions 23

Action 1 Protect and monitor the Shark Bay islands populations and their habitat 23

Action 2 Maintain captive mala populations 23

Action 3 Maintain and monitor the Trimouille Island mala population 25

Action 4 Reintroduction of the mala to mainland and island sites 25

Action 5 Repeat population viability analysis (PVA) 26

Action 6 Resolve the taxonomy genetically 26

Action 7 Improve community participation and education 26

Action 8 Coordinate the recovery program 27

3.4. Implementation 29

3.5. International obligations 30

3.6. Affected interests 30

3.7 Role and interests of Aboriginal people 31

3.8 Benefits to, and negative impacts on other species 33

3.9 Social and economic impacts and benefits 33

3.10 Guide for decision-makers 35

3.11 Management Practices 35

4. Acknowledgements 37

5. References 38

APPENDIX 1 - Mala Recovery Team 46

APPENDIX 2 - Detailed information on previous and existing Recovery Actions 47


  • ASDP Alice Springs Desert Park, NRETAS

  • AWC the Australian Wildlife Conservancy

  • ARAZPA Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria

  • CLC the Central Land Council

  • DEC the WA Department of Environment and Conservation

  • DEH SA Department for Environment and Heritage, South Australia (now DENR Department of Environment and Natural Resources)

  • DSEWPAC the Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Parks Australia Division,

  • NRETAS the Biodiversity Conservation Unit of the NT Department of Natural Resources Environment, Arts and Sport (formerly Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory)

  • ZAA the Zoos and Aquaria Association (formerly ARAZPA)


Lagorchestes hirsutus ssp., mala or rufous hare-wallaby (unnamed central mainland subspecies).1

Lagorchestes hirsutus bernieri, rufous hare-wallaby (Bernier Island).

Lagorchestes hirsutus dorreae, rufous hare-wallaby (Dorre Island)
Family: Macropodidae

DEC Region: Midwest, Pilbara

DEC District: Shark Bay, East Pilbara

Shire: Shark Bay, East Pilbara

Recovery Team: Mala Recovery Team (Appendix 1)

Current status (EPBC Act): L. hirsutus ssp. (unnamed subsp.) Endangered

L. h. bernieri Vulnerable

L. h. dorreae Vulnerable

Habitat requirements: Dense heath and shrub cover or Triodia grasslands


The mala was formerly distributed across Australia within the spinifex deserts of the Northern Territory and north-west South Australia and is now extinct in the wild on the mainland. There is a single introduced population on Trimouille Island off the Pilbara coast of Western Australia that has been self-sustaining for over eight years. The remaining populations are held in captivity in the Northern Territory (Watarrka National Park, Alice Springs Desert Park, Uluru-Kata Tjunta National Park [UKTNP]), Western Australia (Peron Captive Breeding Facilities, Lorna Glen), and New South Wales (Scotia Sanctuary).
The Bernier Island and Dorre Island rufous hare-wallaby subspecies (Shark Bay islands subspecies) occur only on Bernier and Dorre Islands in Shark Bay, Western Australia.
The south-west subspecies (Lagorchestes hirsutus hirsutus) formerly inhabited the temperate woodlands and grasslands of Western Australia and is now extinct.


The mala is thought to have disappeared due to a combination of predation by introduced species (the European fox Vulpes vulpes and feral cat Felis catus), habitat destruction and alteration due to agriculture and pastoral use, the impact of the introduced European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, and changes in fire regimes. The populations of the rufous hare-wallaby on Bernier and Dorre Islands are stable, but are potentially threatened by the introduction of exotic species, fire and disease.

Recovery actions

  1. Protect and monitor the Shark Bay islands populations and their habitat;

  2. Maintain captive mala populations;

  3. Maintain and monitor the Trimouille Island mala population;

  4. Reintroduction of the mala to mainland and island sites;

  5. Repeat a population viability analysis (PVA);

  6. Research the taxonomic status and genetics;

  7. Improve community participation and education; and

  8. Coordinate the Recovery Program.

Cost for first five years

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