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Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
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Red-legged Pademelon


Photo: Courtesy of Damon Ramsey
 BSc.(Zool) Biologist Guide

Red-legged Pademelon: Thylogale stigmatica

  • They are marsupial rainforest kangaroos.
  • Red-legged pademelons are the only ground dwelling wallaby that lives in Wet Tropics rainforests.

Identifying Characteristics:

  • It has soft thick fur, grey-brown on the back and cream on the underside.
  • Rainforest forms are generally darker in colour than those from the open country.
  • An average-sized pademelon may be 2 feet tall when standing upright.
  • Its common name refers to the rusty colour on the limbs.
  • The cheeks, forearms, outside and inside of hind legs are a rusty brown colour
  • Their tail is short and thick.

Diet:

  • They mainly eat fallen leaves, but sometimes also eat fresh leaves.
  • They also feed on fruits and berries from shrubs. In the southern part of its range, the Moreton Bay Fig is a major food source, as is fruit of the Burdekin Plum in the northern part. It sometimes also eats Fishbone Fern, King Orchid, and grasses like Paspalum notatum and Cyrtococcum oxyphyllum.
  •  It also eats the bark of trees and Cicadas
  • Pademelons and tree-kangaroos affect regeneration of the rainforest as they browse on the young trees and can seriously impede their growth or even kill them.

Social Behaviour:

  • They feed equi-distant apart and are under the control of one dominant Pademelon that controls their feeding area and sets their feeding distance.
  • They communicate by vocalisations and thumping their heels on the ground.
  • They use several vocalisations in social behaviour. In hostile interactions and if a female rejects a male during courtship, a harsh rasping sound is uttered. Soft clucking sounds are made by the courting male - similar sounds to that of a mother calling her young.

Behaviour:

  • They are active from late afternoon, throughout the night until the early morning, then go to their resting places where they remain for much of the day.
  • They show least activity in the hours around midday and midnight.
  • Late afternoon, evening and early morning they can be seen grazing on open grassland near the rainforest edges but quickly retreat into the forest if disturbed
  • During daylight hours they mostly feed, spaced 30 to 50 metres apart, deep in the rainforest.
  • Although generally solitary they may group together at night while feeding on grasslands. 

Security:

  • The security of their family structure, as well as their speed and agility in closed rainforest, protects them against most feral animal attacks.
  • When the animal is resting, it sits on the base of its tail whilst placing the rest of it between its hind legs. The animals then leans back against a rock or sapling. As it falls asleep, its head leans forward to rest on the tail or on the ground beside it.

Breeding Cycle: 

  • Pademelons have a gestation period of 28-30 days.
  • The oestrous cycle is 29-32 days. 
  • Mating occurs 2-12 hours after the birth of the young.
  • The sex of pouch-young is distinguished at 3 to 4 weeks.
  • Teat detachment occurs at 13-18 weeks.
  • Ears become erect at 15-18 weeks.
  • Eyes open at 16-18 weeks.
  • Hair becomes visible at 19-21 weeks.
  • Young venture out of pouch 22-26 weeks.
  • Young leave the pouch at 26-28 weeks.
  • Young are weaned approximately 66 days after leaving the pouch.
  • Females become sexually mature at about 48 weeks.
  • Males become sexually mature at about 66 weeks. 
    ( Breeding Cycle Details are courtesy of: 
    Strahan, R. et al. (1995) The Mammals of Australia, Australian Museum/ Reed New Holland, Sydney.)
  • Red legged Pademelons are Macropods and therefore have an amazing reproductive system.
  • When it is born the tiny blind baby has only been developing for three to six weeks. Its limbs are hardly developed but its forelimbs are well enough developed to haul itself through its mother's belly hair to reach her pouch.
  • Shortly after giving birth the female macropod becomes sexually receptive again. If she successfully mates she will again fall pregnant.
  • If the female macropod does in fact become pregnant the new embryo (called a blastocyst) is put into a state of suspended animation. The blastocyst will remain in this state until such a time when its brother or sister is old enough to vacate the pouch.
  • As soon as the little Pademelon is old enough to leave the pouch then the stalled embryo begins developing again.
  • Even once a young pademelon vacates the pouch it often pops its head back in to suckle. It only uses the teat that it used the during the time it was in its mothers pouch. This allows the mother to supply two different types of milk to its young. One type of milk for the more developed offspring that has left the pouch, and another for the less developed young that is still in the pouch.
  • This reproductive system known as embryonic diapause, is found in honey possums, bats and seals as well as the other macropods.. 
  • It is an extremely efficient reproduction system and if a young animal dies or is lost from the pouch, immediate development of the blastocyst replaces it quite quickly.

Viewing Opportunities:

  • There is a commentary and viewing of Red-legged Pademelons for the guests at Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodge every evening at 7pm (winter) 7:30pm (summer).
  • Red Legged Pademelons in substantial numbers are easily seen in The Chambers rainforest clearing late afternoon, evening and early morning.

Nocturnal Pademelon Viewing Photo

Distribution and Habitat:

  • Due to land clearance they have suffered a reduction in range, however, they remain common where the habitat remains and they are not seriously disturbed by selective logging.
  • The Red-legged Pademelon seems to prefer rainforest areas, but it also occurs in both wet sclerophyll and dry vine scrubs.
  • Distribution is discontinuous, especially in the north where it appears to be limited by the availability of vegetation providing adequate cover.
  • Extensive rainforest clearing has reduced its available habitat, but sufficient parks and reserves currently exist throughout its range to secure its status.
  • Forest clearing may benefit the Red legged Pademelon to a certain extent. A higher number of forest fragments means the Pademelons have more adjacent pastures that provide them with ample food.

Additional Information: Courtesy of Damon Ramsey

Pademelons: Thylogale spp.

  • Pademelons can be considered a rainforest wallaby.

  • The four species are found in the denser, wetter forests of eastern Australia and New Guinea.

  • However, they can also be found in nearby sclerophyll forest, savanna and grasslands (Walker and Nowak 1985).

  • They are rather small, squat wallabies with soft, thick fur and relatively short tails.

  • Pademelons usually sleep and rest deeper in the forest.

  • Like many Australians, they usually sleep through the middle part of the day.

  • In the afternoon, night and mornings they may come out onto the edge of the forest and into clearings to feed (Lindsey 1998).

  • They often bounce along the same trackways, wearing out little tunnels in the denser foliage (Lindsey 1998).

  •  They feed on fruits, grasses and leaves and some have even been blamed for crop losses (Egerton 1997).

  • They are often thought to be solitary animals, with feeding in groups only due to sharing of the resource, and are reported to scatter when alarmed rather than bunching together as the more gregarious macropods do (Lindsey 1998).

  • However, this is countered by observations  in North Queensland that seem to operate in groups, complete with dominant individuals and guards that sound perimeter alarms (Chambers, pers com 1999) by thumping the ground with their big feet (Egerton 1997) much like rabbits.

  • Breeding occurs all year, with males that are not usually much taller than the females, but may weigh almost twice as much due to more muscle (Egerton 1997).

Script: Courtesy of  Damon Ramsey BSc.(Zool) Biologist Guide

Nocturnal Pademelon Viewing Photo

Additional Pademelon PhotoAdditional Pademelon Photos 2
Additional Pademelon Photos 3Additional Pademelon Photos 4
Additional Pademelon Photos 5Additional Pademelon Photos 6


Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges
Lake Eacham, Atherton Tablelands
Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
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