Awesome Australia - Witness Some Of The Most Varied Wildlife On Earth!

Awesome Australia - Witness Some Of The Most Varied Wildlife On Earth!

Posted by Leanne Sturrock on 2nd Dec 2016

Today is the first Friday of December, and while many of us over on this side of the world are in the full swing of Christmas shopping, traipsing up and down the highstreet in hats and scarves while selecting presents for our nearest and dearest, those in Australia are having a bit of a different time. Yes, our distant friends still celebrate Christmas, buy gifts and all of those fun kinds of things, but as we rely on the warmth of our good hearts to break through this icy winter cold, the Aussies are flocking to beaches and donning their best bikinis. I love this time of year, but really…who wouldn’t want to trade with the Aussies in December?!

Fairer weather and days out by the ocean do come at a cost, however: with hot summers come an array of dangerous wildlife, and it’s at times like these that I begin to appreciate just how damn boring the UK can be at times. (Seriously: we’re so low-risk as a country in terms of climate and wildlife, so let’s just be grateful for that over next few months!) Over the next few paragraphs, we’ll be running through some of the varied wildlife to be found in Australia this time of year – from the cute and cuddly, to the downright deadly.

The Good: The Cairns Birdwing Butterfly

Cairns Butterfly

With a wingspan as wide as 150mm in females (males come up a little shorter at 125mm), the Cairns Birdwing Butterfly is the largest of its kind in all of Australia. The species gets its name from the location in which it is commonly found: Cairns! The males of this species have a predominantly black upper wing with emerald green flashes, and such a striking contrast makes them easy to spot. However, the female lacks the green colouring, and instead has a plain black upper wings with white markings. And its these wings which flutter beautifully as the butterflies feed: this rapid motion enables the butterflies to hold their weight!

The Striped Skink

Striped Skink

Some people are easily creeped out by reptiles, but there is no need to be afraid of the Ctenotus taeniolatus, otherwise known as the striped skink. These little fellas only measure up to a maximum of 30cm, and are actually a great addition to your garden’s ecosystem! Feeding on small invertebrates like insects and worms, the skinks make for fantastic pest-controllers and will allow plants and veggies to thrive. When they’re not spending time rummaging through leaves or sunbathing on your lawn, skinks like to bask on rocks or in drier areas of Australia.

Marsupials

Sleepy Koala

This can be anything from the wombat, the quokka, or the famous koala! Let’s stick with the last one, shall we? The internet is consistently bowled over by these adorable icons of Australian culture, and it’s no surprise, really. These sleepy, snuggly-looking marsupials are near harmless, leading a herbivorous life and quite enjoying keeping themselves to themselves. The animals are a major magnets of tourists towards the country, but that doesn’t mean we should start posing with the animals in those typical ‘koala cuddle’ photographs! (Since the animals are asocial, it is not typically encouraged that we hold these creatures close – we don’t want them getting stressed out after all!) Instead, we can all enjoy the peaceful gait of these sweet little friends, and appreciate the iconic image they share with Australia.

The Bad: Parasitic Storm Birds

Australian Koel

Okay, so while these guys might not be the most harmful of creatures, they sure are annoying and are considered something of a pest by Australians. Not necessarily endemic to the region (which many Aussies will be thankful for!), a species known as the Channel-billed Cuckoo arrives in the summer to breed, bringing with them an annoying habit of squawking all day and night…before finally relenting and heading back to their native Indonesia. Unfortunately, though, there is an endemic species known as the Koel, which has a similarly annoying habit of making raucous noise outside of your window. The term ‘parasitic’ refers to the notions of the birds laying their eggs in larger nests that belong to other birds (such as magpies, crows or ravens), before flying off and leaving the eggs to be adopted. These storm birds really do provide masterclass in negligence and annoyance – let’s not take their teachings on board though, okay?!

Tasmanian Devils

Tasmanian Devil

These guys have been eternalised in the form of a crudely-drawn Looney Tunes character named Taz – and let’s just say that whoever was tasked with doodling this famous character, sure wasn’t a fan of the real thing. The real-life Tasmanian Devil is much cuter than its caricature counterpart would have you believe (at least when it comes to appearance!), but its habits are nothing short of gruesome and annoying. The ‘devil is the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, and will devour most anything: snakes, birds, fish and even dead carcasses make up Taz’s diet (bones, fur and all) …and he’s not afraid of going after larger, living prey either. With one of the strongest bites in the animal world, Tasmanian Devils can bite through metal – maybe it’s best that they’re solitary creatures, as nobody wants to be around a creature this aggressive! Finally, the Tasmanian Devil just loves to make a bit of a racket: whether looking for a fight, food or even for a mate, the ‘devils make a ridiculously loud screeching noise…just because they feel like it. I’m beginning to realise why Cartoon Taz was animated in the way that he was…

Scorpions

Scorpion

Australia is home to a whole host of scorpion species, though not all of them are poisonous. In fact, scorpions are considered really quite common in Australia, which is why not too many folk seem afraid of them! That said, a sting from any of these guys could well cause a great deal of suffering: while no deaths have been recorded due to a scorpion sting, an attack from one of these arachnids could still land you in hospital due to the amount of excruciating pain inflicted on your poor feet (or wherever they manage to sting!) Most likely a cold pack will alleviate symptoms of scorpion stings but infection or, indeed, symptoms such as sickness of fatigue, could follow.

The Deadly: Blue Ring Octopus

Blue Ringed Octopus

Now, be careful not to be fooled by this otherwise stunning creature: the Blue Ring Octopus is one of the most deadly creatures in all of Australia. With its psychedelic markings and vibrant colours, the octopus should not be perceived as attractive, but rather as one big warning sign – but that doesn’t stop some uninformed folk from trying to pick up the tiny ‘pus. Measuring in at only 10cm, the octopus has venom which really packs a punch…so deadly is this venom, that death can occur within 2 hours of contact. In fact, it could kill 26 adults within minutes. There have been an estimated 23 deaths related to this dangerous creature and, tragically, the victim tends to be a small child. This is because kids like to play in rock pools…which coincidentally is where the octopus makes its home. Even more horrifically, the bites given by the octopus are so small and painless, that many of the victims don’t even know that they’ve been affected until respiratory depression and paralysis sets in. (I’m not sure how more tragic things can get here, but as one final blow: there is no anti-venom to counteract the effects of a bite.) When spending time at the beach, be extra careful not to cross paths with one of these guys.

Box Jellyfish

Box Jellyfish

Yet another deadly creature can be found dwelling in Australia’s oceans: this time, we’re talking about the ghostly-looking Box Jellyfish. Renowned as being one of the deadliest creatures on earth, once you’ve been stung by a box jellyfish there’s little chance of making it out alive. These ethereal entities have a huge number of tentacles, each one equipped with 5000 stinging cells. And it’s in these stinging cells that the Box Jellyfish’s secret power lies: there are chemicals found in human flesh that trigger a reaction, and a lethal poisonous effect, from the stinging cells. And once the venom reaches the victim, a slew of gruesome side effects begins to take place: first, a toxin shoots through the skin and into the bloodstream, causing a dangerous spike in blood pressure and, as a result, puts intense pressure on the heart. So acute is this pressure that the heart will most likely stop, giving just a few minutes of life to the victim before they ultimately succumb to cardiac arrest. There are minimal survival stories after this kind of jellyfish attack, and anybody that has made it out alive, tends to then be regarded as a medical miracle. And with regards to the jellyfish itself, the species is baffling enough even without its toxicity: it’s the only species of jellyfish that hunts, and can swim at Olympian speeds. Unthinkable, really, considering that these guys are made up of 96% water…

Crocodiles

Saltwater Crocodile

Australia’s crocs are the some of the most savage in the whole world. With a bite force of 3700psi, the saltwater crocodile has the second strongest bite of any animal on the planet, second only to its cousin, the Nile crocodile. That said, the saltwater croc is far more likely to purposefully eat human beings, and its sheer size alone is enough to put the fear in anybody: at a whopping 17ft loing and up to 1000lb in weight, these guys are the largest extant terrestrial and riparian predators in the world. Not exactly a species you want to wrestle with, let’s just put it that way! The species thrives in northern Asutralia, particularly in areas such as Queensland and Darwin – so don’t be surprised to find one lurking in waters near you anytime soon. Known to be the opposite of fussy eaters, these crocs will devour most anything and have the broadest diet of any crocodilian species…meaning, if you do see a saltwater crocodile nearby, you’d better run in the opposite direction!

Australia’s animals are some of the most versatile in the world – but if you’d prefer things a little safer, or have a desire to explore a whole new world of wildlife, why not check out our project pages? The continent is geographically blessed in terms of placement, with exciting destinations like Malaysia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka at a relative stone’s throw away. See where we could send you!


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