One of my favorite things about being back in Australia are the semi-regular sightings of its native birds and mammals.
Since I’ve been home, I’ve seen stacks of birdlife and plenty of animals (and insects too, gulp) both in the wild and at various nature reserves.
These critters sure are a sight for sore eyes. The urban foxes in London were sweet, but don’t quite cut it.
Here are what I think are the cutest Australian animals.
These brightly colored lorikeets were one of the first native animals I spotted in the wild – they’re hard to miss with their rainbow feathers and piercing shrieks.
They’re notoriously playful and friendly. If you leave them food, they will come and sometimes be okay with you getting up close to them in the process.
Hey, I’m a bird fan and emus rate pretty highly on my list.
The emu is the largest bird in Australia (second to the ostrich worldwide) and is ancient – their ancestors roamed the land around the same time as the dinosaurs!
They’re pretty but deadly – each foot has one talon equipped toe, that they use for fighting.
The emus are the Australian national bird and feature on the country’s crest, alongside the kangaroo.
Koalas are one of three mammals in Australia that survive on a diet of eucalyptus leaves. They receive 90% of their hydration through these leaves – in fact, their name comes from an ancient Aboriginal name, meaning “no drink.”
These furry, sleepy little bears were once prolific across the continent, but their numbers have dropped as their habitat has been cleared (around 80% since European settlement over 200 years ago).
The population has also been affected by the spread of the disease chlamydia, which manifests in times of stress (i.e., loss of habitat). As a result, many of the colonies across the mainland are in decline.
It’s sadly quite uncommon to see them in the wild, these days.
As the name suggests, the Devils are found in the southern island state of Tasmania. They once populated the mainland too but became extinct around 400 years ago.
They’re a type of marsupial, mostly black in color, with white markings. Their heads are ginormous, and they have powerful jaws that can crunch through bones.
Devils have been hunted on Tasmania since European settlement, due to their fondness for farmhouse chickens. They were pushed almost to extinction, nearly meeting the fate of the Tasmanian Tiger, until laws were put up to protect the species in the 1940s.
They’re now dying out from a disease called Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD). Scientists are attempting to find a cure and a breeding program called Devil’s Ark has been set up in the state of New South Wales, in an effort to re-introduce them into mainland Australia.
Well, at least one of our most iconic animals is under no threat of being wiped out, anytime soon.
Kangaroos are the largest marsupials on the earth and native to Australia. They were put on the Australian coat of arms due to their inability to move backward, to represent a country that was intent on moving forwards.
Kangaroos are in fact considered a pest across Australia. When shopping in local supermarkets, you can find roo steak sat next to more traditional meats, like lamb and beef.
Not much is known about the platypus. They’re shy creatures, which are rarely seen in their natural habitat. Most Australians will have only seen them in captivity – myself included.
Platypuses are an odd mix of features. With a tail like a beaver, the body of an otter and the flat bill and webbed feet for a duck, they were declared a hoax, when first brought from Britain to Australia. Sorry, but it was nature having a joke, not some other trickster.
They’re one of the few venomous mammals. Males have a spur on the back of their hind feet, which secretes venom during mating season, or when threatened.
The platypus is also one of two egg-laying mammals in the world – the echidna being the other.
Common Brushtail Possum
I’ve seen photos of American possums, and they now haunt my dreams.
Australian possums, on the other hand, are quite positively cuddly in comparison – particularly the brushtail.
This nocturnal creature can be found across Australia, and its numbers are strong – meaning that many have the same attitude towards it as they do to roos, considering it to be an irritating pest.
Some idiot brought the possum to New Zealand in the 1800s so that it could be hunted for its fur. Naturally, it is wreaking havoc on the natural habitat in the islands as it competes with native birds for food.
What are your favorite Australian animals?