With travel suspended during this pandemic, let’s virtually cruise over to Australia and take a look at some of their wildlife. There is no place on this planet like Australia.
Indigenous to Australia, kangaroos are found nowhere else in the world. In taxonomically general terms, these marsupials come in all sizes, and there are many different kinds.
The adult Grey Kangaroo in the first photo was human size; whereas the rock wallaby below, also a kind of kangaroo, was only about calf-high. You can imagine how tiny her joey is.
Kangaroos go back tens of thousands of years as you can see from this ancient Aboriginal rock art.
Two bird species as big as humans grace the “Land of Oz”: the cassowary and the emu.
Smaller birds, i.e. not human-sized, are equally as spectacular, including parrots, cockatoos, and kookaburras.
One year we were determined to spot a platypus in the wild. We did all our research as to where they live, and devoted an entire day to hiking back to a desolate place called the Black Swamp. It was over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit that day. We never found one.
But we were rewarded with this echidna who waddled out of a pile of dead leaves. This spiny mammal, pictured below, has its nose (“beak”) dug into the earth, hunting for ants.
Still determined to find a platypus in the wild, we returned to Australia 11 years later and hired a guide. We learned that platypus are rare to find, very shy, and prefer certain waterways on dark days. With the guide, we quietly skulked alongside a back stream in the rain, and were thrilled to find this one.
On this massive planet, only Australia and New Guinea still have monotremes, like the platypus and echidna: a mammal that lays eggs instead of giving birth to live young.
Reptiles are also widespread on this hot and dry continent. Some are more menacing than others….
Flying foxes, which are bats, are one of my personal favorites. We saw them flying in large flocks at dusk on their way to hunt; in the daytime they could be seen roosting in some trees. Many Australians consider them pests, they damage trees.
There are different species across the continent; here are two, the grey-headed and the spectacled.
Nocturnal creatures in wild Australia are yet another world.
This is a sugar glider, a marsupial flying possum. They are similar to flying squirrels, but not related.
Even insects in Australia are extraordinary.
We’ll have to explore the underwater wild of the Great Barrier Reef another time.
With large marsupials hopping around and smaller ones gliding through the trees; birds that are every color of the rainbow, and some that are as big as humans; reptiles that can chew you to bits; and mammals that lay eggs, Australia has a very entertaining wildlife world.
Written by Jet Eliot.
All photos in the wild by Athena Alexander.