If you’re curious about the wildlife you might find Down Under, you’re in the right place! Wildlife in Australia, too many is pretty scary, as almost everything seems to be somewhat “deadly” but not to fear, Australians are always prepared for the worst and they know what to look for. This blog is going to focus on some of the more weird and wonderful animals you might find in Australia.
Fitzroy River Turtle
Wildlife in Australia: Fitzroy River Turtle
The Fitzroy River turtle is one of the wonders of Wildlife in Australia. They are light to dark brown in colour and grows to approximately 260 mm in length. The shells of hatchlings (up to 95 mm long) are highly serrated while adults have rounded, smooth-edged shells. The species has a single pair of barbels on the lower jaw. The Fitzroy River turtle is capable of obtaining up to 70% of its oxygen needs from the water through its cloaca, in a process called cloacal respiration. This allows the Fitzroy River turtle to remain underwater for up to three weeks.
This turtle is an adept bottom feeder, preying on terrestrial and aquatic insects, macroinvertebrates, crustaceans, algae, aquatic snails, worms, freshwater sponges and aquatic plants such as ribbon weed. Stomach flushing has demonstrated that most of the diet was made up of macroinvertebrates with some freshwater sponges.
Natural history and observations in the wild
This species shows a clear preference for fast flowing water (near sand banks for egg laying) and has been found at depths as shallow as 15 cm. In most encounters, they have been found lying still, hidden by overhanging plant foliage along the shallow banks of fast flowing riffles (fast flowing streams or rapids) and under logs. In all encounters their preferred substratum was noted as coarse river sand and gravel.
There is limited sexual dimorphism with the tail of the female being cutely shorter than that of the male. The most accurate way to differentiate between sexes is to compare the distance between the anal scutes of the plastron and the cloacae. In males, the cloacae is located further away from the plastron than in females. Most other short-necked turtles in Australia show obvious differences in tail length and thickness. Multi-clutching is demonstrated in this species in the original study by Legler and Cann (1980) as corpora lutea, current eggs and enlarged follicles were present in the females, indicating at least 3 clutches. Anecdotal records since indicate up to 5 clutches may occur.
Wildlife in Australia: Saltwater Crocodile
Wildlife in Australia most certainly includes these beautiful Saltwater Crocodiles. Reaching lengths of more than 23 feet (6.5 m) and weights over 2,200 pounds (~1,000 kilos), the saltwater crocodile is the largest reptile on the planet and is a formidable predator throughout its range. Saltwater crocodiles of this size are capable of eating just about any animal that strays too close and are particularly adept at drowning terrestrial creatures like birds and mammals. Named for its ability to survive in full salinity seawater, saltwater crocodiles typically live in brackish (low salinity) water near the coast.
Though crocodiles and their relatives have a negative reputation among people, most species are relatively harmless and would rather avoid people rather than confront them. The saltwater crocodile, however, is known to show aggression towards people – partly a result of its strong territoriality – and is responsible for at least several dozen attacks on people each year.
The extremely powerful jaws of the saltwater crocodile are responsible for creating the strongest bite in the animal world. The strong teeth can be up to five inches (13 cm) long. These two characteristics and the animal’s ability to hold its breath for long periods of time make it the perfect predator for hunting large land mammals. Saltwater crocodiles lurk along the water’s edge and attack in a violent lunge at any potential prey that approaches the water. The crocodiles are an old lineage and have been thriving in this environment since before the dinosaurs went extinct. In many superficial ways, the saltwater crocodile seems to resemble a dinosaur.
Though they spend much of their time in the water, saltwater crocodiles must come ashore to warm up in the sun and to nest. Like all reptiles, saltwater crocodiles reproduce via internal fertilization, and females carefully look over their nests after laying a clutch of approximately 50 eggs. In addition to protecting their eggs from potential predators, females carry new hatchlings to nearby bodies of water so that they will not be harmed during that dangerous first journey and continue to protect the young for at least several months. Interestingly, the temperature of the nest determines the sex of the hatchlings. Cooler nests produce mostly females, while warmer nests produce mostly males.
Though they have few natural predators, saltwater crocodiles have been hunted for many decades by people. Their eggs and meat are eaten, and their skin is particularly valuable for use as a material for bags, shoes, and other goods. These activities have threatened the saltwater crocodile’s numbers in the past, and this species has historically been considered highly vulnerable to extinction. Recent conservation efforts have allowed populations to rebound in some places, but the historic range has certainly contracted, as a result of local extinction. Currently, the saltwater crocodile has complete legal protection in Australia and other places. However, it is important to further monitor saltwater crocodile population trends to ensure that the recent positive trend continues to support recovery of this top coastal and marine predator.
Wildlife in Australia: Tasmanian devil
Tasmanian Devils are cute members of the Wildlife in Australia family. They are stocky carnivorous marsupial animals with heavy forequarters, weak hindquarters, and a large squarish head. The Tasmanian devil is named for the Australian island-state of Tasmania, its only native habitat. Vaguely bearlike in appearance and weighing up to 12 kg (26 pounds), it is 50 to 80 cm (20 to 31 inches) long and has a bushy tail about half that length. The coat is mainly black, and there is a whitish breast mark; sometimes the rump and sides are white-marked as well. Gaping jaws and strong teeth, along with its husky snarl and often bad temper, result in its devilish expression. It is mainly a scavenger, feeding on carrion such as roadkill and dead sheep. The larvae of certain beetles are its major source of live food, but it has been known to attack poultry.
Tasmanian devils are related to quolls (catlike Australian marsupials, also called native cats); both are classified in the family Dasyuridae. The teeth and jaws of Tasmanian devils are in many respects developed like those of a hyena. The pouch, when relaxed, opens backward, but, when the muscles are contracted to close it, the opening is central. During the breeding season, 20 or more eggs may be released, but most of these fail to develop. In most cases just four young are produced after a gestation period of about three weeks; these remain in the pouch for about five months. Overall, female offspring outnumber males about two to one.
The Tasmanian devil became extinct on the Australian mainland thousands of years ago, possibly following the introduction of the dingo. In 1996 the number of Tasmanian devils living on Tasmania was estimated to be more than 150,000. From 1996 to 2007, however, this figure dwindled by more than 50 percent, and the adult population was thought to number between only 10,000 and 25,000.
Wildlife in Australia: Koala
Koala’s – are possible the cutest members of Wildlife in Australia, they are also called koala bear, is a tree-dwelling marsupial of coastal eastern Australia classified in the family Phascolarctidae .
The koala is about 60 to 85 cm (24 to 33 inches) long and weighs up to 14 kg (31 pounds) in the southern part of its range (Victoria) but only about half that in subtropical Queensland to the north. Virtually tailless, the body is stout and gray, with a pale yellow or cream-coloured chest and mottling on the rump. The broad face has a wide, rounded, leathery nose, small yellow eyes, and big fluffy ears. The feet are strong and clawed; the two inner digits of the front feet and the innermost digit of the hind feet are opposable for grasping. Because of the animal’s superficial resemblance to a small bear, the koala is sometimes called, albeit erroneously, the koala bear.
The koala feeds very selectively on the leaves of certain eucalyptus trees. Generally solitary, individuals move within a home range of more than a dozen trees, one of which is favoured over the others. If koalas become too numerous in a restricted area, they defoliate preferred food trees and, unable to subsist on even closely related species, decline rapidly. To aid in digesting as much as 1.3 kg (3 pounds) of leaves daily, the koala has an intestinal pouch about 2 metres (7 feet) long, where symbiotic bacteria degrade the tannins and other toxic and complex substances abundant in eucalyptus. This diet is relatively poor in nutrients and provides the koala little spare energy, so the animal spends long hours simply sitting or sleeping in tree forks, exposed to the elements but insulated by thick fur. Although placid most of the time, koalas produce loud, hollow grunts.
The koala is the only member of the family Phascolarctidae. Unlike those of other arboreal marsupials, its pouch opens rearward. Births are single, occurring after a gestation of 34 to 36 days. The youngster (called a joey) first puts its head out of the pouch at about five months of age. For up to six weeks, it is weaned on a soupy predigested eucalyptus called pap that is lapped directly from the mother’s anus. Pap is thought to be derived from the cecum. After weaning, the joey emerges completely from the pouch and clings to the mother’s back until it is nearly a year old. A koala can live to about 15 years of age in the wild, somewhat longer in captivity.
Formerly killed in huge numbers for their fur, especially during the 1920s and ’30s, koalas dwindled in number from several million to a few hundred thousand. In the southern part of their range, they became practically extinct, except for a single population in Gippsland, Victoria
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources(IUCN) has listed the koala a vulnerable species since 2016. The species decreased by nearly 28 percent between the years 1984 and 2012, largely because of habitat loss and fragmentation, which made the animal more susceptible to vehicle strikes and predation by dogs. Drought and bushfires also contributed to the decline in the koala population. As temperatures increase and the drying effects of climate change become more pronounced in Australia, wildlife officials expect that the koala population will decline further in the coming decades.
Wildlife in Australia: Kangaroos
Kangaroos are completely synonymous with Wildlife in Australia, so we had to include a little info on them in this blog! Kangaroos are large marsupials that are found only in Australia. They are identified by their muscular tails, strong back legs, large feet, short fur and long, pointed ears. Like all marsupials, a sub-type of mammal, females have pouches that contain mammary glands, where their young live until they are old enough to emerge.
Kangaroos are in the Macropodidae family, which also includes tree-kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, quokkas and pademelons. When people think of kangaroos, the four species that typically come to mind are in the genus Macropus: the antilopine kangaroo, the red kangaroo, the western gray kangaroo and the eastern gray kangaroo. They are sometimes referred to as the “great kangaroos” because these species are much larger than other kangaroos.
However, there are 12 species of tree-kangaroos in the Dendrolagus genus, according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System. And, bettongs, in the Potoridae family, are called rat-kangaroos.
The largest kangaroo, as well as the largest marsupial, is the red kangaroo, according to National Geographic. The length from the red kangaroo’s head to its rump is 3.25 to 5.25 feet (1 to 1.6 meters) long. Its tail adds another 35.5 to 43.5 inches (90 to 110 centimeters) to its length and its entire body weighs around 200 lbs. (90 kilograms).
The smallest kangaroo is the musky rat-kangaroo. It is only 6 to 8 inches (15.24 to 20.32 cm) long and weighs only 12 ounces (340 grams). Its ratlike tail adds another 5 to 6 inches (12.7 to 15.24 cm) to its length. Most kangaroos live on the continent of Australia, though each species has a different place it likes to call home. For example, the musky rat-kangaroo likes to nestle down in little nests on the floor of the rainforests in northeastern Queensland. Gray kangaroos like the forests of Australia and Tasmania, on the other hand. The antilopine kangaroo can be found in the monsoonal eucalyptus woodlands of extreme northern Australia. Tree-kangaroos live in the upper branches of trees in the rainforests of Queensland, as well as on the island of New Guinea.
Kangaroos are the only large animals that hop as a primary means of locomotion. Their springy hind legs and feet are much stronger and larger than their arms (or “forelimbs”). According to the San Diego Zoo, kangaroos can cover 15 feet (7 m) in a single hop and can hop as fast as 30 mph (48 kph). Usually, 20 mph (32 kph) is considered their cruising speed. When feeding, kangaroos use a slower, walking movement, and for that they use their muscular tail as a kind of fifth leg, pushing off the ground as they move along.
Kangaroos are social and live in groups called a mob, a herd or a troop. Kangaroos in a mob will groom each other and protect each other from danger. If a kangaroo suspects there is danger in the area, it will stomp its foot on the ground to alert others. If it comes to blows, a kangaroo will box and kick its opponent. Kangaroos are herbivores. They eat grasses, flowers, leaves, ferns, moss and even insects. Like cows, kangaroos regurgitate their food and re-chew it before it is ready to be totally digested.
Probably the best-known fact about kangaroos is that they carry their young in a pouch. A female kangaroo is pregnant for 21 to 38 days, and she can give birth to up to four offspring at one time, though this is unusual.
At birth, the baby, called a joey, can be as small as a grain of rice, or as big as a bee, at 0.2 to 0.9 inches (5 to 25 millimeters), according to the San Diego Zoo. When the joey is born, it is guided safely into the comfy pouch, where it gestates for another 120 to 450 days. Inside the pouch, the joey is protected and can feed by nursing from its mother’s nipples. Joeys urinate and defecate in the mother’s pouch. The lining of the pouch absorbs some of the mess, but occasionally the mother will need to clean it out, which she does by inserting her long snout into the pouch and using her tongue to remove the contents. A young joey will remain attached to a nipple while the mother does this, but any older ones will be temporarily kicked out. Another interesting fact about the mother kangaroo is that she is able to suckle two joeys at different developmental stages at the same time with milk that has different nutritional content, the New York Times has reported.
Joeys grow quickly, though, and at 14 to 20 months for females or 2 to 4 years for males, they will be fully matured.
According to the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, 16 species of tree-kangaroos and rat-kangaroos are listed as either near threatened, threatened, vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. The desert rat-kangaroo and the Nullarbor dwarf bettong are considered extinct. Studies show that global warming could also kill off the world’s smallest kangaroo. The four species of great kangaroos are not endangered.
Summary of the Wildlife in Australia
It is clear that we have just scratched the surface of the diversity of Wildlife in Australia in this blog. If you enjoyed reading this blog you will most certainly enjoy the other blogs like Wildlife in the Maldives , Where you can see Koalas or Where to see crocodiles in the Wild .
If you find yourself in Australia and want to check out the Wildlife in Australia get in touch with some operators below!