The Most Famous
Australian Animals

Dingo mammal A Dingo is one of the oldest breeds of dogs. It is believed to be introduced to Australia by Aboriginals from New Guinea about 3,000 years ago. The Aboriginals called it Warrigal and it was their only domestic animal. Dingos cannot bark, but, let out a mournful cry.
Usually Dingos are a ginger colour with white points also blackand tan, and also in white. Their bodies can grow to one metre with a extra 30 cm bushy tail. They have large and always erect ears.
Dingos live in well-defined groups and roam all of Australia except in Tasmania. Dingos prey on Wombats, Wallabies, Kangaroos and Rabbits.
They also prey on sheep and have been considered pests. To exclude Dingos from the eastern states of Australia a fence was erected which came to be known as 'the longest fence in the world', the dog fence. Dingos breed once a year and on average have 3-4 pups.
Emu bird The Emu is the second largest bird in the world (The Ostrich is the biggest). It is Australia's largest bird standing 1.5 metres high and weighing up to 55 kg. The emu cannot fly but it can run up to 50 kph! It's breeding time is from April to November when it lays six to eight green and speckled eggs. The emu builds its nest out of stones and grass in the shape of a circle.
Kangaroo marsupial
The Kangaroo is probably Australia's most famous animal.
When Australia's first European Explorers saw a strange animal as tall as a human, leaping around like giant grasshoppers they couldn't believe their eyes! They asked Australia's original inhabitants -the Aborigines - ' What are these animals ?' They replied 'kangaroo'. Now to the Aborigines, this meant 'I don't understand you'. The Europeans thought they were referring to the big-footed hoppers, so they named them Kangaroos.
Kangaroos are often just called 'Roos '. There are 60 different kinds of Kangaroos and 12 relatives called Rat Kangaroos. Some species are common while others are endangered. Males are larger than females in all species. The smallest is the female Warabi Rock Wallaby which is 2 pounds. The largest Kangaroo is the male Red and Grey which weigh 200 pounds.
Some Kangaroos live alone, some live in families with a bond that lasts a lifetime, while some travel in large mobs. A Kangaroo can sprint 40 mph over a 1-2 mile distance and 20 mph for long distances such as 10 miles or more.
Kangaroos are shy, mainly nocturnal animals, but some species are active at dawn and dusk. Generally, they live for 20 years in captivity and approximately six years in the wild.
The Australian Kangaroos are going blind. In the last months a virus has been spreading like an epidemic. It is affecting Western Greys, Eastern Greys and there are even some reported cases of Red kangaroos being affected.
Some roos have adjusted. Others in bush country stumble and bump into trees and the like and stress. The virus can be a death threat because its aggressive path attacks the brain and eyes of the kangaroo. Once the Kangaroo is blind it is permanent.
Current research (August 1995) discovered the virus which is attacking Australia's national emblem. It is transmitted by the bite of an insect but the problem is, scientists don't know which insect it is!! They are currently trying to isolate the culprit by catching insects in an insect trap (which is attached to the roof of a ute-car) and driving through Kangaroo habitat.
It is believed the virus has been around before and that this disease could be cyclical. Each time the outbreak has followed a drought.
The most common colours of Kangaroos are blue, grey and red, but they can also be black, yellow or brown. Occasionally there are albino or white kangaroos.

Some of the species of Kangaroos are:

  • Red Kangaroo which are also called Plains Kangaroo, Blue Doe and Blue Flyer.
  • Eastern Grey Kangaroo which is also called Grey Kangaroo and Scrub Kangaroo.
  • Black faced Kangaroo which is also called Western Grey Kangaroo, Mallee Kangaroo and Kangaroo Island Kangaroo.
Koala marsupial
You may think a Koala is a bear, but it isn't. In fact the Koala has no relation to a bear. It is a distant cousin to the Wombat and both the Koala and the Wombat have fossil history over 15 million years. The Koala is together with the Kangaroo Australia's most popular animal and most loved marsupial mammal.
It has a woolly coat with large fluffy ears, a bulbous nose and almost no tail. A Koala is nocturnal. This means it sleeps during the day in the fork of a tree and eats after dark. Its strong claws allows it to be a strong climber. The Koala moves very slowly and some people think it is lazy.
The Koala feeds on selected eucalyptus leaves. Other animals couldn't digest the oils and poisons in eucalyptus leaves, but the Koala's digestive system has evolved to accommodate this.
The female Koala has one young a year. The baby Koala sucks on two nipples in its mum's backward-opening pouch for seven months. It rides on mum's back and is weaned at 1 year onto eucalyptus leaves.

Find out more about Koalas by visiting:

Frilled Neck Lizard reptile If you ever see a Frilled Lizard be prepared for a surprise. A big surprise!!!
This rough-scaled, cold-blooded reptile has a large frill or ruff around the throat which, when not in use, lies folded over its shoulder and chest. But Beware!!
When it's in a moment of fear, the Frilled Lizard opens it's wide mouth and spokes of scaly skin stiffen like an umbrella around it's throat.
With it's large, open, brightly coloured mouth and incisor teeth, and with a hissing sound, the Frilled Lizard's bluff can give you a fright. The Frilled Lizard is an awesome and amusing spectacle as it springs away on it's hind legs only.
The Frilled Lizard is one of the 40 varieties of dragon lizard that live in Australia. It's long tail and slender body is 1 metre long but when it frills it's neck it appears to be twice as big. The colour of it's scales vary to where it lives and it feeds on spiders and insects. Like other lizards the Frilled Lizard lays eggs.
Platypus mammal What has a paddle like a tail and a bill like a duck ?
You guessed it - a Platypus. This mammal has a fleshy sensitive duck bill and webbed feet. It has a tail like a beaver and a double coat of fur.
A Platypus lives in a river bank burrow. When it swims underwater it closes its eyes, nostrils and ears. It can't normally see so it relies on its bill for direction and feeding. It eats aquatic life like crayfish and larvae.
A Platypus can move on land, but it has to walk on its knuckles because the web extends beyond its toes.
The male Platypus has sharp poisonous spurs on each ankle. These spurs can cause pain and even kill small animals. The spurs are usually used for combat during breeding season.
The female Platypus usually lays two eggs and suckles it's young. A male platypus is approximately 50 cm long and weighs 2kg. A female Platypus is approximately 42cm long and 700gms in weight.
Tasmanian Devil marsupial
The Tasmanian Devil is the largest carnivorous marsupial in Australia. It is black with a white collar around it's neck and is the size of a small dog like a fox terrier. It has a savage and fierce appearance. Yet while the Tasmanian Devil growls, screams and gaps it's jaw, it is largely a sham.
Being nocturnal, the Tasmanian Devil hunts and feeds during the night. It's strong powerful jaw eats the bones and all of it's prey, which is smaller animals, birds and reptiles.
Female Devils have a backwards-opening pouch with four teats and the usual litter is four young.
Wombat marsupial
A wombat is a hairy marsupial mammal. It can weigh up to 39 kg and be approximately 1 metre long. They have a short 25mm tail and stumpy legs.
Did you know that a wombat likes to live alone ? They do. A Wombat even has its own feeding ground. A Wombat lives in hilly forest country and it likes to burrow underground. A burrow can be as long as 20 metres. Sometimes burrows can interconnect, so whilst Wombats are loners they can show some community spirit.
Wombats are nocturnal animals which eat grasses, roots and herbs after dark.There are three species of Wombats.

For more information about the Australian animal world please visit the Australian A-Z Animal Archive

Copyright © Jürgen Knupe 1998-2000
last update: 2000-11-12