Posted on 04/08/2019 by

Study reveals secret life of Wallabies

A recently published study which tracked the movements of 48 wallabies on Phillip Island has revealed which parts of the landscape they prefer to use and how that selection changes between day and night hours.

Phillip Island Nature Parks Deputy Research Director, Dr Duncan Sutherland, explained that the research is part of the Nature Parks’ commitment to use robust science to inform how we can best manage and live with wildlife on Phillip Island.

Wallabies are located throughout the human-modified landscapes of Phillip Island, but their activity is concentrated in some habitats during the day, and then shifts when night falls.

“We followed their movements, both during the day and at night, to examine the differences in the wallabies’ behaviour patterns across 24-hours and compared this across a variety of landscape features such as woodland and scrub, housing estates, farmland, coastal areas, wetlands, waterbodies and roads,” explained Dr Sutherland.

The team captured 48 wallabies between January 2015 and March 2017 in a representative range of landscapes across Phillip Island. Each was fitted with a custom-built GPS tracking device.

“We showed that wallabies living in a human-modified landscape selected different landscape features during the day or night. By day, wallabies were more likely to be found within or near natural habitats like woodlands and coastal reserves, though in this fragmented landscape, roadside strips of vegetation were also important refuges.”

“But at night they moved to habitats that may be perceived as more ‘risky’ such as roads, housing estates and farmland. Water bodies, including farm dams, are important features in this fragmented landscape which wallabies mostly accessed at night,” said Dr Sutherland.

All animals need food and shelter and moving around to access these involves a level of risk, depending on the landscape. Fragmentation of their environment can cause animals to alter their patterns of resource selection in space and time to optimise the trade-off between risks and benefits.

“This research helps us to understand and develop ways to accommodate for these movements, such as advisory signage and community education to reduce road kills, creating habitat links and potentially fencing off areas. It’s all part of our commitment to living with wildlife on Phillip Island.”