On every Wildlife Journey tour there is a time-stopping, plan-changing wildlife event. One of those moments in nature when nothing else matters, you just watch…. transfixed.
Recently, we were driving along the Marlo Plains Road in East Gippsland looking out for wild macropods – kangaroos and wallabies – in the early morning. We found them, hundreds of Eastern Grey Kangaroos and dozens of Red-necked and Swamp Wallabies. But two stopped us in our tracks.
They couldn’t keep their hands off each other.
They were two female Red-necked Wallabies, about the same size, and both fully-grown adults. Both seemed to have active pouches (ie. joeys inside). It is very likely they were mother and fully-grown daughter – their bond was obviously strong.
For ten minutes or so we couldn’t take our eyes off them.
Mother nuzzled her daughter’s chest in a very maternal way: “Darling, you’ve got a dirty spot. I’ll fix it.” Daughter put her ears back, resigned.
Not to be outdone, daughter nuzzled her mother in the same spot: “Mother, you have a dirty spot. Let me fix it.”
Daughter stretched over and groomed that hard-to-reach spot at the back of her mother’s neck. Mother repaid the favour.
Back and forth the two groomed, nuzzled and socialised. Both seemed to enjoy the together time.
Wet with early-morning dew, daughter shook herself, comically. Mother leaned away to avoid the water droplets – as you do.
Macopods (kangaroos & wallabies) are social animals, but the degree and complexity of sociality varies over the many species. In some highly-social species – like Eastern Grey Kangaroos – the bond between mother and daughter seems to last a lifetime. I didn’t realise the mother-daughter bond was also so strong in Red-necked Wallabies (Notamacropus rufogriseus). In fact Red-necked Wallabies were one of the first macropods studied that showed the importance of matrilines (female lineages) on population self-regulation. It seems that by keeping their daughters around, Red-necked Wallaby populations achieve balance with their environment and resources and maintain a stable population. (1)
Moments like these are unique. I’ll probably never see this precise situation again. That’s okay – I’ll see other rare and magical moments, and I’ll never forget this one.
Now every time I see a little mob of Red-necked Wallabies in the distance I’ll smile and wonder: “Is there a mother and daughter over there, just enjoying being together?”
NOTES & REFERENCES:
1. Rootourism Fact Sheet: http://www.rootourism.com/fsheet32.htm