Friday, April 1, 2011

Land Down Under - Creatures

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Australia has an abundance of native wildlife, animals which are unique to this country. Some of them are cute, some are dangerous and some are down right ugly. Here I bring you the most popular and as always my comments and personal experiences about them as well.

If you’ve been following my Land Down Under posts, you’ll have seen some of the amazing places that Australia has to offer. All previous posts are available via the Land Down Under tab on my blog. I hope you enjoy the tour.

The Good

Koala - The koala is possibly one of the best known Australian animals and its name comes from an Aboriginal word meaning 'no drink'. Koalas normally get all of their fluid requirements from eating the leaves of the eucalyptus tree; obviously this poor little guy hadn’t read the rule book.
This poor little fellow was on my next door neighbour’s front verandah last summer. We’d had two weeks of plus 40C days and he spent 2 days on their verandah alternating between sipping from the water bowl they put out for him and dipping his hands in the water.

Koalas have soft, thick, grey or brown fur on their backs. The fur on the stomach is white and they have large, hairless noses and round ears. Adult koalas measure between 64 to 76 centimetres in length and weigh between 7 and 14 kilograms.
Koalas have strong, sharp claws and long toes to help them climb. The front paws have two thumbs to help them grip branches strongly. The second and third toes on the back legs are joined together to form a grooming claw.
Koalas are generally quiet animals but communicate with each other through a variety of noises which range from sounds like a loud snore, to a burping sound and even a loud bellow.

Kangaroo - The word 'kangaroo' is from the Aboriginal word 'gungurru' for the grey kangaroo. However, the English settlers  used the word, which they pronounced kangaroo, to refer to any of the kangaroo family.
Kangaroos feed at night on grass and other low growing plants. Kangaroos drink water when they find it, but can go for long periods of time without drinking.
They may look harmless but these animals have amazing power in their tails and back legs. They can support themselves on their tails and kick a person a large distance. The red kangaroo is the biggest of all the marsupials. A male can be 1.5 metres long with a 1 metre long tail. It can weigh 85 kilograms. Females are smaller. The grey kangaroo is smaller than the red kangaroo.

Possum -  The Common Ringtail Possum is about the size of a domestic cat and is grey with white patches behind the eyes and on the belly. They have orange-brown tinges on the tail and limbs.
This little creature is cute and can be quite sociable with humans. Destruction of natural habitats means these animals have adapted to living closer to people, despite their cute appearance though they can be quite bothersome. They get into peoples roofs and live in the walls of houses where they can cause havoc.
No matter how cute they look it is wise not to try and feed them as a friend of ours discovered despite being warned not to put his fingers near it. After a few beers too many he thought he could befriend a cute innocent little possum with an apple. Hate to say I told you so.
Possums are very agile and like to hang out in trees or other high places they use their long white tipped tails for gripping branches when climbing. They can also use their tail for carrying nesting materials. They have a soft, high pitched twittering call

Wombat - I love these little guys, they look like fat little bears but are in fact marsupials.They eat mainly grasses and roots and live in large burrows up to 30 meters (100 feet) long. Wombats are extremely strong and very capable diggers. It’s said that if you accidently hit one on the road in a car that these solid little creatures can cause the car to flip over.
The average wombat is about 1 metre (40 inches) long and weighs about 25 kg (55 pounds). Their colour varies from a sandy color to brown or black to grey. Their lifespan is anywhere from 5 years to over 30 years.

The Bad

Crocodile - Australia is home to two different species of crocodiles, both of which are native to Australia but are very similar in appearance to alligators.
The freshwater crocodile is found in inland freshwater areas of the Australian tropics and occasionally in the tidal portions of rivers. Male freshwater crocodiles grow up to 3 metres in length, although females are much smaller, rarely growing longer than 2 metres. Both species mature at around 15 years of age.

The saltwater crocodile is found in estuaries, rivers, lagoons and swamps of the Australian tropics. Saltwater crocs are also found off beaches, and even a considerable distance up rivers and creeks in this region. Saltwater crocs can grow to a very large size. While females can grow up to 4 metres in length, males can reach 7 metres in length and weigh over 1,000kg.

Freshwater crocodiles eat smaller animals that come to drink at the waters edge where as saltwater crocodiles are capable of ambushing and killing cattle and horses as they come to drink at waterholes. Prey can also include wallabies, pigs, and even other crocodiles.
They are fascinating creatures but are definitely best viewed from behind the safety of a fence or within the safe confines of a boat (which is how we saw them in Darwin)

Brown Snake - Of the 10 most dangerous snakes in the world, 8 of them are Australian. The second most deadly snake in the world is the brown snake which is approximately 1.5 metres long. Bites from this species of snake have caused death within minutes, rather than hours or days, with even a baby brown snake potentially delivering enough venom in a single bite - to kill 20 adults.
This snake is found throughout most of the eastern half of Australia. They feed on small creatures, such as mice and rats, small birds, lizards or even other snakes. The Brown Snake has a narrow head in appearance, with a slender body. Their colour may range from beige to silver, cream, brown, light tan to orange, dark brown and some times even black.

The Ugly

Yabby - A true Aussie childhood involved catching yabbies from dams and rivers. Yabbies are a type of inland freshwater crayfish found in Australia. They have smooth shells and range in colour depending upon the colour of their habitat (mud, silt, water etc)
Yabbies usually grow to a length of up to 150 mm depending upon conditions. Their eyes are on the end of little stalks and they also have 3 sets of antennae which provide them with the ability to touch things.Yabbies have gills like fish so they can "breathe" under water and like most crayfish they have 2 large "pincer like" claws at the front.

Goanna - Goannas were named when white people first came to Australia and saw large reptiles that they thought were a kind of iguana, hence the name goanna. The goanna is not an iguana, but a species of monitor lizard. Goannas climb trees, swim, run fast, and can stand on their back legs.
The goanna is about 160 cm long altogether. Its head and body measure about 70 cm. Its body is flattened; it has strong legs with long toes and claws. It has a long neck. It can give a fierce blow with its long tail. It has a tongue rather like a snake's, which it flicks in and out. We had one cross the road behind our car when we were in Kangaroo Island and they’re an awesome sight to see.

I hope you enjoyed meeting some of our Australian animals, next week I’ll introduce you to some of our 'iconic' Australian inventions.

"If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys." - Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation

1 comment:

  1. Dang I knew it. I have been losing all my comments today into cyber space. It is the total theif Im telling you.
    So i love this little guy is so cute. Love yoru blog as well.
    So I wanted to let you know the B post wont hit the blog until 10 pacific time here in the states.
    You should join the challenge I think youd like it. It is a bit fun I must say.
    Im enjoying this bit of sunshine like everyone around the world from the sounds of it.


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