A Bagful of Wallaby

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On his way to victory and a perfect score in yesterday’s National Geographic Bee, Texas seventh grader Eric Yang had to answer questions related to two animals brought all the way to Washington, D.C., for the occasion by their SeaWorld San Antonio handlers.

I snuck out back to visit before the finals.

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Robert Trejo reached into a travel carrier, pulled forth a cream-colored cloth bag, and opened it to reveal an outlandishly adorable (and soft, and pet-able) creature, Bennett’s Wallaby. Known to scientists as Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus, wild wallabies such as this roam the Australian island of Tasmania, where adults can grow to be five feet (1.5 meters) tall.

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Wallaby numbers are on the rise—according to their official Tasmanian government web page—due to reduced hunting and an increase in pasture land where they like to graze. Though often loners, wallabies sometimes travel in groups called “mobs.”

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One more thing to avoid in dark alleys: Wallaby mobs.

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Robert’s colleague Paige Newman produced a jowly lizard known, she explained, as the Argentine black and white tegu, Tupinambus merianae. It stared at me for a moment, then stuck out a long, forked tongue. Nice.

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In the wild, black and white tegus lurk in the dense foliage of rain forests, where they burrow and hibernate through part of the year. They’re also said to make good pets, and are intelligent enough that some have been trained to use litter boxes. Smart!

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Read all about the National Geographic Bee finals on National Geographic News, and learn how questions get chosen—plus expert tips for mastering geography—on NGM Blog Central. Or take the GeoBee Challenge to test what you know about the world!

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Photographs by Ford Cochran

Wildlife