A post by guest blogger Dave Gregory
Australia’s Unique Animals
Australia has one of the biggest and most diverse ranges of animals in the world. Due to the sheer size and the fact that Australia has been isolated from all other landmasses for over 100million years, 85 per cent of plants, 84 per cent of mammals and 45 per cent of birds are endemic. The wildlife attracts thousands of visitors to Australia every year but there’s a lot of Australians who haven’t experienced everything the country has to offer too. In some cases, the animals are hard to find, so here is a list of some of Australia’s most unique animals and where you can find them.
When the first settlers in Australia encountered the platypus and described it to zoologists and naturalists back in Europe, they thought it was an elaborate hoax. Even when an example was brought back, it still raised suspicion. There’s no doubt that the platypus is one of the strangest animals in the world. Platypus’ can be found all along the east coast of Australia from the Cape York Peninsula in the north to Tasmania in the south. It lives in streams and small rivers, often fairly close to human settlements. They’re incredibly distinctive animals with their duck-bill and flat tail and an adult male will grow to be about 50cm. The platypus is one of five members of the monotreme family (mammals that lay eggs) and without doubt the most well-known (the others are all echidna species, confined to Australia and New Guinea, while the platypus is only in Australia). In biological terms, the monotremes are some of the oldest mammals. Another aspect of the platypus that sets it apart from almost all other mammals is the fact that it produces venom via a barb on its back foot. The venom, although not powerful enough to kill a human, does cause extreme pain.
It was out of the question to leave the kangaroo off the list, even though the majority of Australians will probably have seen them before. The national symbol of Australia, the various different species are found over most of the country and are quite easy to see, especially if you’re driving through more remote areas. Kangaroo meat was traditionally very important to the Aboriginal people of Australia and is becoming more popular around the world, especially in restaurants and steak houses in Europe and the North America.
Related to Africa’s ostrich, the emu is one of the world’s largest birds, and like the ostrich, they are flightless. A fully grown adult will stand at about two metres tall and because of their powerful legs, they can run very fast and for a very long time. It’s not uncommon for them to travel long distances and go for weeks between finding food. Emus can be found across most of mainland Australia but tend to avoid built up areas. If you’re going on a trip specifically to see wildlife then there’s a good chance to see kangaroos and emus in similar places.
The freshwater crocodile is the smaller cousin of the famous (and more dangerous) saltwater crocodile and are generally not considered dangerous to humans-not that you should get too close to them! These crocodiles can only be found in the north of the country in the states of Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. They inhabit the rivers, billabongs, wetlands and creeks and can be fairly easy to spot when they’re basking in the sun, especially if you take someone experienced in looking for crocs with you. If you’re planning a trip to see crocodiles, the best approach is to book flights to Darwin, hire a car, and explore their habitat from there. The Kimberley and Kakadu national parks are probably the best places to see both types of crocodiles in the wild.
Other Animals to Seek Out
There are plenty of other non-indigenous animals that also call Australia home at various points of the year and are well worth looking for. Australian waters are very popular with sharks, and there are a variety in the water, ranging from the famous great white, the smaller but more aggressive bull shark and the large but completely harmless whale shark. In fact, 166 species of shark can be found around Australia. The koala is of course famous around the world as a symbol of Australia and can be found all along the eastern and south eastern coasts. If you want to get up close and personal, many zoos around the country allow you to hold them. Although only a small selection of the wildlife that can be found in Australia, this list should serve as a starting point for your future adventures. There’s no limit of new and exciting places to go and wildlife to see, especially if you know where to look and it’s always better to see animals in their natural habitat.