AUSTRALIAN WILDLIFE

KANGAROO

Eastern Grey Kangaroos are from the macropod family. “Macro-pod” means “Big-foot”and you can see why. Pregnancy is short, 35-36 dayS. The tiny unformed joey climbs into mums pouch. It keeps developing, at 5 months old starts putting its head out of the pouch. Stays with mum and feeds until it is about 18 months old. Kangaroos are herbivores and mainly eat grass. Adults are 1.8m tall and up to 90kg weight for males, females up to 55kg. The biggest kangaroos are Red Kangaroos and they are up to 2.2m tall. They live for over 20 years. Kangaroos use their tail as a limb. Kangaroos can balance on their tails, lean backwards, and kick their hind legs at an opponent. Their smaller relatives wallabies have smaller tails, can actually sit on their butts ( the kangaroo has to lay down because their tails cannot go under their butts like the wallabies).  Kangaroos have a wider body frame, longer flatter feet as they require more food, & more grass is found on flatter areas. Wallabies are smaller and their feet have different shape adopted to slopey areas.

EMU

Emus are giant flightless birds. They are covered in feathers, but can not fly. Emus walk around in groups. They have babies once a year in winter. The father is responsible for sitting on the eggs and looking after the chicks. He sits on the eggs for nearly two months during which time he eats and drinks almost nothing. He loses about a third of his body weight while he is on the nest. When the chicks hatch out, they stay with the father for about 6 months. He walks around the bush with them showing them how to find food, and protects them from predators. The mother does protect the father while he is on the nest, but she does not help to raise the chicks.

CASSOWARY

Cassowaries are the heaviest birdS in Australia, They are flightless birds. Cassowaries are distributed in far north Queensland and also throughout New Guinea. In Australia, we estimate we have around 1500 birds in the wild, they are restricted to tracts of rainforest in north-east Queensland, from Cape York to Townsville. Cassowaries are frugivores (fruit eaters) and are responsible for the distribution and germination of many north Queensland rainforest trees. As the fruit passes their digestive system, digestive enzymes increase the rate of germination of the seeds. Without cassowaries, our rainforests may not be able to survive.

KOALA

Koalas are marsupials, like most Australian mammals. This means they have a pouch where their babies (called joeys) develop. “Koala” means “no drink”. They do sometimes drink water, but they usually don’t need to because they can get all the fluid they need from their food-eucalyptus. Koalas only eat the leave of gum trees, and usually only eat the tender new leaf growth that has the most nutrients and energy. Eucalyptus leaves have low nutritional value, as a result, koalas sleep 16-18 sometimes up to 20 hrs a day. Koala pregnancy is 34 days. We estimate we had 1million koalas 100 years ago, these days the estimate is 50 000 in the wild. We have only 1 species but 2 distinctive populations. Northern population in Queensland is smaller in size, lighter coat to camouflage, southern population is bigger, the coat is darker and longer, up to 6.5cm long. Koalas are tree-living mammals, they have 5 digits, 2 thumbs, to be secure high up in the trees. Their backbone is grown in, serving as a seat. Their closest relative is wombat.

WOMBAT

Wombats are Australian marsupial mammals that have very short muscular legs, burrowing animal, they are the closest relative to the koala. Wombats feed on grasses and roots (they are herbivores) . They do not have sweating glands, they can not regulate body temperature, wombats are nocturnal, in winter months can be seen also during the day, in warmer months, they will rarely venture out during the day.

Wombats are generally slow movers however they can run quickly if required. Their best form of defence though is when they are in their burrow. We have 3 species, Common wombat we find in most NSW, lives individually, and likes wet soils, so easy to find near creeks. Southern hairy-nosed wombat found in Nullabor Plains and Northern hairy-nosed wombat found in Queensland prefer dry soils and live in a group, sharing the tunnels.

PENGUIN

Little penguins are flightless seabirds. The little penguin is the smallest of all penguins. Standing about 35 to 45 cm in height, it weighs approximately one kilogram when fully grown.

Currently, the only known mainland breeding colony in NSW is in Manly area of Sydney Harbour. This colony has been declared an endangered population.

The birds usually nest in burrows. They often set up their colonies in sand-dune vegetation, but they can also be found among rocks, in sea caves, and on headlands. The birds are excellent swimmers, and are able to survive at sea for long periods. They generally spend the day at sea and return to their colonies after dark. On land they stand upright, walking or waddling awkwardly on their hind legs.

Little penguins feed on small fish, squid and krill (tiny shrimp-like crustaceans). They mainly feed in shallow waters within 15 to 20 kilometres of the coast.

ECHIDNA

Echidnas together with the platypus, are the world’s only monotremes, or egg-laying marsupial mammals. Echidnas do not have pouch, but they contract the mussels to create the shape. They lay the egg, 16days later little echidna is born, drinks milk. When they are around 100 days old, they start growing the spines. Mum makes the nest. Echidna leaves the nest when around 200 days old. All echidnas have sharp spines covering the back of their short, stocky bodies. Termites and ants are the preferred food.

TASMANIAN DEVIL

Tasmanian Devils are the largest living carnivorous marsupial in Australia, having backward facing pouches. Male Tasmanian Devils can weigh up to 12kg, and females up to 10kg. Each Devil has distinctive white markings on their chest, which is used as a fingerprint to identify individuals.

More than 5000 years ago, Tasmanian Devils were common on mainland Australia. They got pushed away by dingoes that arrived from Indonesia. Today, they are only found in Tasmania. Tasmanian Devils can hunt, but most of the time they scavenge dead animals (carrion) found on roadsides. Sadly, many of them are hit by cars while feeding. They are unlucky, one of 3 species in the world that has contagious cancer. They develop facial tumors and die of starvation. In some parts of Tasmania, we lost up to 80-90% of the wild population.

DINGO

Dingoes are considered Australia’s wild dog. They arrived in Australia about 5,000 years ago – brought to Australian shores by Indonesian Seafarers. Dingoes do not bark, but howl like wolves. Weighing between 13-24kg, Colours vary from sandy yellow to red ginger, and there are a small percentage of dogs who are black, black-tan or white. They eat a variety of animals but the majority of their diet is wallaby and kangaroo. They are also known to prey on rabbits. They prey in the pack, pack of 12 or so.

Dingoes are found through most of mainland Australia, but are absent from Tasmania. There are many different cross breeds of dingo/dog . Truly pure dingoes are extremely rare, most of them on Fraser Island.

DINGO FENCE

Dingo fence is 5531km long, it is the world’s biggest agricultural pest barrier. It stretches from the Darling Downs in Queensland to the South Australian coast just short of the Nullarbor Plain. The fence was erected in the late 1800s and early 1900s to protect the crop from rabbits. And later on livestock.

There is a debate. It is not easy to remove a predator from the environment. Think of grey wolves in Yellowstone National Park. In areas without dingoes, we have observed increased numbers in rabbits, kangaroos, and emus disturbing the ecological balance. Also, dingoes can keep in check red foxes and feral cats and feral goats. Australia has the highest extinction rate for mammals over the last 200 years, red foxes and feral cats are a factor in those extinctions.

In February 2019, Government announced a plan to extend the fence. The NSW Border Wild Dog Exclusion Fence will be extended by 742km, more than double its current length along the western and northern borders of NSW.