Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Extinct
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Recovery Plan for the Mala (Lagorchestes hirsutus) 1999-2003 (Langford, D., 2000) [State Recovery Plan].
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
    Documents and Websites
The action plan for threatened Australian macropods 2011-2021 (World Wildlife Fund for Nature - Australia (WWF), 2011).
Scientific name Lagorchestes hirsutus hirsutus [66655]
Family Macropodidae:Diprotodonta:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author  
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Lagorchestes hirsutus hirsutus

Common name: Rufous Hare-wallaby (south-west mainland)

Other names: Mala

The Rufous Hare-wallaby (south-west mainland) was described in 1844 from specimens obtained by John Gilbert in the wheatbelt country of Western Australia (Gould 1844). They were small rabbit-sized wallabies standing approximately 30 cm high and weighing between 700 g and 2 kg. The colouring of the fur, particularly on the hind quarters, chest and abdomen, was a rich sandy buff. The fur on the head and back had a greyish-white tint and hair length increased towards the lower portion of the back, giving the animal a conspicuous 'shaggy' appearance (Troughton 1967). The tail was dark brown above and pale red below. There was no apparent colour differentiation between the sexes, but females, on average, were larger than males. The animal had a head and body length of 31–39 cm and a tail length of 24–28 cm. These animals made a characteristic whistling sound when running which led early colonists to give it the name 'whistler' (Gould 1863).

The Rufous Hare-wallaby (south-west mainland) was formerly distributed throughout low shrublands of the eastern wheatbelt, and the spinifex deserts of south-west Western Australia (Langford 2000). The species is thought to have become extinct around 1900 (Burbidge 2004).

The Rufous Hare-wallaby (south-west mainland) was described by John Gilbert as occupying 'low scrub country' (J. Gilbert n.d., pers. comm., cited in Gould 1863), while Finlayson (1963) reported indigenous people hunting the species through spinifex-mulga country. This species was also described as inhabiting sandplains with low woody shrubs (Burbidge 2004).

The Rufous Hare-wallaby (south-west mainland) often dug a short burrow, up to 70 cm long, for protection and for shelter in hot weather. The burrow was open at both ends (Gould 1863).

In captivity, the similar subspecies Lagorchestes hirsutus was found to breed virtually continuously throughout the year (Lundie-Jenkins 1993c). The age at sexual maturity for females ranged between 5 and 18 months and for males was approximately 14 months. Captive reared animals remained reproductively active up to 8 years of age (Langford 2000).

The similar subspecies Lagorchestes hirsutus appears to favour recently burned vegetation that is re-growing. The Rufous Hare-wallaby (south-west mainland) diet probably consisted of seed-heads, grass, young sedge, herbs and shrubs. It had a stomach that was well adapted to a high plant-fibre diet. Insects appeared to be an important source of dietary nitrogen when conditions were poor (Langford 2000).

The Rufous Hare-wallaby (south-west mainland) was primarily nocturnal. These animals sometimes rested during the day, hidden under a hummock of spinifex (Flannery 1990b).

Rabbits may have competed for food resources in parts of this species' range. Cattle and sheep may also have competed with the Rufous Hare-wallaby (south-west mainland) during the late nineteenth century, although in general this species occupied the un-grazed desert lands (Langford 2000).

The disappearance of the Rufous Hare-wallaby (south-west mainland) appears to be a result of two different threats. The cessation of Aboriginal fire regimes resulted in devastating bushfires that diminished the diversity and natural mosaic of the vegetation, thus limiting available habitat and food resources for this species (Flannery 1990b). In addition, predation by feral cats appeared to significantly impact this species (Burbidge 2004; Flannery 1990b).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Uncategorised:Uncategorised:threats not specified Lagorchestes hirsutus hirsutusin Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006oj) [Internet].

Burbidge, A. (2004). Lagorchestes hirsutus hirsutus. Threatened animals of Western Australia. Page(s) 42. Kensington, Western Australia: Department of Conservation and Land Management.

Finlayson, H.H. (1963). The Red Centre. Sydney, NSW: Angus and Robertson.

Flannery, T. (1990b). Rufous Hare-wallaby. Australia's vanishing mammals. Page(s) 161-65. Sydney, NSW: Readers Digest Press.

Gould, J. (1844). Descriptions of three new species of Halmaturus and Lagorchestes. In: Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. 12:31-32.

Gould, J. (1863). The Mammals of Australia. London, England: published privately.

Langford, D. (2000). Recovery Plan for the Mala (Lagorchestes hirsutus) 1999-2003. [Online]. National Parks and Wildlife Serve, Northern Territory. Available from:

Lundie-Jenkins, G. (1993c). Ecology of the rufous hare-wallaby, Lagorchestes hirsutus Gould (Marsupialia: Macropodidae), in the Tanami Desert, Northern Territory. 1. Patterns of habitat use. Wildlife Research. 20:457-476.

Troughton, E. le G. (1967). Furred Animals of Australia. 9th Edition. Sydney, NSW: Angus & Robertson.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Lagorchestes hirsutus hirsutus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Mon, 22 Sep 2014 00:11:31 +1000.