Earth Day - Celebrating Our Native Fauna
In honour of Earth Day, we are featuring a few of our favourite marsupials and some other unique native Australian animals. Climate change and recent fires have had a major impact in their environments, but we hope to protect these precious creatures which can only be found in our homeland.
Our largest marsupials, kangaroos are famously known for their means of locomotion: hopping! They can reach speeds of 60 km/h and use their muscular tails for balance, as a second limb for moving around and for swimming - surprisingly, they are great swimmers! They are also well known for their forward-opening pouch where they carry their young (or joey).
Image source: Australia.com
Our most iconic native - the cuddly koala is located only in Australia and is usually found sleeping perched up high in the branches of eucalyptus trees. Generally found across Southeast Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria, koalas can eat up to a kilogram of eucalyptus leaves every day. Their diet is relatively poor in nutrients, providing them with little spare energy and thus the reason you mostly find them sleeping!
Image source: Discover Port Macquarie
Another hopping marsupial, wallabies are related to kangaroos but differ in size, diet, leg size and habitat. Slightly furrier, they prefer heavily wooded and rugged areas. Their powerful hind legs are not only used for bounding at high speeds and jumping great heights, but also to administer vigorous kicks to fend off potential predators.
Image source: wall.alphacoders.com
The happiest animal in our native lands, Quokkas mainly reside on Rottnest Island in Western Australia. Quokka selfies have become increasingly popular with tourists in recent years and the heartwarming creatures have become very accustomed to humans. They are mainly nocturnal creatures, so you'll generally find them resting or sleeping during the day.
Image source: Experience Perth
These cartoon like creatures could melt the hardest of hearts. They have big eyes, large ears and long whiskers but only grow to about 5 to 12cm in length and weigh less than a golf ball. They use their prehensile (grasping) tails like fifth limbs to climb swiftly and leap between tall trees. You can find five different species of pygmy possums in Australia: the Mountain, Eastern, Western Tasmanian and Long-tailed Pygmy Possum.
Image source: Ashlee Benc from KI Land for Wildlife
Large and chunky marsupials that dig out tunnels and burrows with their front teeth and powerful claws. Generally nocturnal, Wombats come out at night to eat grass, roots and bark. They are adaptable to different habitats and can be found in forested, mountainous and heathland areas of southern and eastern Australia and Tasmania. Unlike other iconic marsupials, wombats have a backward-facing pouch preventing it from gathering soil while digging and carrying its young.
Image source: The Morning Bulletin
An important cultural icon of Australia, the emu is our largest native bird. They are soft-feathered, brown and flightless birds with long necks and legs and can reach to 2m in height. Emus have a rather distinctive and unusual trait: females lay the eggs, but they leave the males to incubate and look after the chicks. They live throughout most of the continent, ranging from coastal regions to high in the Snowy Mountains.
Image source: The Guardian
A small egg-laying mammal known as a monotreme and one of the oldest surviving examples of early mammals. They are similar in appearance to hedgehogs and have their bodies covered in sharp beige and black spines. Quite a shy species, if they become frightened they will typically curl up into a ball to hide and protect themselves with an armour of spikes.
Image source: University of Adelaide
One of the world's most unusual animals, the platypus lays eggs, sports venomous spikes, has a duck-like bill and biofluorescent, waterproof fur! They can be found in the freshwater areas of Tasmania and the eastern and southeastern coast of Australia - but are a rare encounter. Males have a spur on the back of their hind feet which secretes venom and is mostly used during mating season. The venom is not life threatening to humans, but it can cause severe swelling and excruciating pain.
The world's largest surviving marsupial carnivore, the Tasmanian devil was originally only found in Tasmania, but have been recently reintroduced to New South Wales. They have a very short life span, living up to 6 years in the wild and will eat anything of animal origin, including insects, reptiles, birds and mammals. Their sense of smell makes them highly skilled at finding carrion and decaying meat and their powerful jaws allows them to consume bones, fur and exo-skeleton.
Image source: Australia.com
Australia's legendary wild dog, Dingoes are believed to be descendants of the Asian wolf. They are tireless hunters and will cross large expanses of desert and open bush in search of prey. Though they look very similar to domesticated dogs, they can be differentiated by their longer muzzle, larger ears and longer and more-slender canine teeth. Often called "singing dogs", dingoes have a varied repertoire of howls - Belinda heard one singing and showing of it's voice during her recent trip to the Pilbara.
Image source: Tourism Australia