Bool Lagoon Game Reserve is in the south-east of South-Australia and encompasses one of the largest lagoon wetland systems in southern Australia. It provides a refuge for thousands of wetland birds including some rare and endangered species especially during drought in the inland. Driving along the edge of the lagoon, you can see a panorama of thousands of ducks, geese, ibis, waders and pelicans, with martins zooming along above the water and the occasional falcon to disrupt the peace. I have rarely encountered an abundance of animals like this and it is spectacular. The reserve is not just a refuge for birds. Occasionally Lowland Copperheads (snake) slither off the roads into the grass, and at night a plonk on the side of the swag reveals a Southern Bell Frog making its way through the camp ground.
There are also other interesting animals hiding in the shadows. While walking along the grassy trails and pontoon board walks in between Bool and Hacks Lagoons, a dark figure startles and disappears off into the reeds with its long dark tail trailing behind. We wait for a little while and the figure cautiously emerges from the shadows and begins nibbling vegetation. This wonderful dark entity is the Swamp Wallaby.
They are somewhat stout and only about the size of a medium dog (15 – 20 kg). They are covered with a dark course fur with rufous tones on the underside and on the top of the head, and a light coloured cheek stripe. Their tail is long and dark and when they hop their head and shoulders are held low and their tail almost horizontal, a characteristic of these wallabies. In some areas the Swamp Wallabies are called Stinkers because of their swampy odour, however I did not succumb or even notice any odour. Apparently, their smell, small size, course fur and poor taste don’t make them particularly desirable for hunting. They also have the ability to eat a number of plants that are poisonous to other animals such as bracken, lantana and hemlock without any ill effects.
The wallaby I was watching become comfortable with my presence after a while, and moved out into the sun to feed on some different vegetation. It is more fascinating watching animals when they are not scared or uneasy, as you can see more interesting behaviours and the characters of individuals. The arms of kangaroos and wallabies can be very expressive, while they grasp vegetation and feed contently, or poised, paws flat to the ground, ready to bound away from danger. I saw both these behaviours in a short space of time as I sat watching quietly. A second wallaby came though the reeds right next to me and startled, bouncing back into the vegetation and startling the other wallaby I had been watching, which then too bounded off into the reeds.
Swamp Wallabies are common all down the east coast of Australia, from Cape York around to the south east of South Australia. They are found in a wide variety of habitats including rainforest, woodlands, scrub and heath. If you are in these areas keep an eye out, sit and wait quietly and you may be able to watch (and hopefully not smell) these fascinating animals.