Ouch, my heart: the Mareeba rock wallaby
There’s a psychological phenomenon known as ‘cute aggression’, which describes that overwhelming feeling you get when faced with something so impossibly sweet, you want to squeeze it so hard, it pops. Anyone else getting a bit of that right now?
Meet the adorable Mareeba rock wallaby (Petrogale mareeba), seen here in its juvenile, so-fluffy-I-wanna-die form.
Found in just one place in the world — the picturesque town of Mareeba in north-eastern Queensland — this rare species of rock wallaby lives up to its name, keeping to the rocky mountaintops that protect it from heat, rain and predators.
The Mareeba rock wallaby has only been classified as a distinct species for the past 31 years. Prior to 1992, researchers struggled to distinguish it from its closest relatives, the Sharman’s rock-wallaby, the unadorned rock-wallaby and the allied rock-wallaby, which all look very similar, and all have a similar range.
Genetic testing is the only definitive way to tell these four species apart, although there are known populations, such as the Mareeba rock wallaby colony in Granite Gorge Nature Park, about 60 kilometres inland from Cairns. This, by the way, is where you should go if you want a chance to feed one of these cuties by hand.
Can we just take a second to contemplate how soft that fur would be?
Though the Mareeba rock wallaby is rare and restricted to a relatively small habitat, it’s doing pretty well for itself — so much so that the Queensland government has listed it as ‘least concern’, in conservation terms. While these classifications are not always indicative of the actual state of a species, the Mareeba rock wallaby has shown itself to be an incredibly resilient little macropod.
Back in 2019, during the catastrophic Black Summer bushfires, a devastating fire tore through one of the most important habitats for the Mareeba rock wallaby — the Yourka Reserve near Einasleigh. The area is managed by conservation group, Bush Heritage Australia.
“There was a big question mark over the rock-wallaby population,” reserve manager Paul Hales told the ABC at the time.
Happily, the Mareeba rock wallabies managed to survive the fires – their rocky outcrop homes provide very good shelter against bushfires – and even bounced back with a baby boom, thriving in bushland that had been rejuvenated by the blaze.
Now, resilience is a great quality to have, but you want to know what my favourite thing about the Mareeba rock wallaby is? The fact that they relax like this:
It’s sitting like a human. It’s too much!