Yes, There Is Such a Thing
Australia’s wildlife has a reputation for being as fascinating as it is deadly. Pretty much every single thing is out to get you. But is that really the case? Maybe among all the spiders, snakes, crocodiles, sharks and whatever else nature can throw at you, there are a few cuddly creatures.
Australia does lay claim to one animal class of cuteness – the marsupials. These mammals are primarily (but not exclusively) located in Australasia and are known for having a pouch which they use to carry their young. One notable example is the wombat which can be found in most regions of Southeast Australia.
Wombats are short, hairy and stocky – the perfect constitution for prolific burrowers. They are split into three distinct species: common, Southern and Northern. Their relationship with humans has evolved over the years. In the past, wombats were nothing more than a source of food for aborigines, but now all three species are protected.
Another marsupial that’s not as well known is the numbat. It’s small and has a colorful, stripped body and a bushy tail. The numbat is not particularly close to any other marsupials and, unlike most of them, it’s active during the day, not at night.
Only one species of numbat still exists and it is only found in a few small regions of Australia. However, the good news is that through conservation efforts the numbat’s numbers have been steadily increasing since the 1980s.
The woylie is a species of bettong, another small, furry marsupial. There once was a time when the woylie was among the most common mammals in Australia, but colonization efforts also introduced new predators like cats and foxes and the woylie numbers dwindled. By the 1960s, the only places that still had these tiny marsupials were islands off the mainland. Again, conservation efforts proved successful and their numbers are on the up.
Even if the name doesn’t sound familiar, you will surely recognize the call of the kookaburra as one of the most iconic sounds of the animal kingdom. It is a birdcall that Hollywood often relies on when trying to present a jungle setting, even if these little critters are completely indigenous to Australia.
Don’t let their diminutive size and colorful plumage fool you – the kookaburra is a bird of prey, almost exclusively carnivorous.
5. Goodfellow’s Tree Kangaroo
Obviously, no list on Australian animals is complete without the kangaroo, probably its most iconic inhabitant. But which one to choose? Most kangaroos are far from harmless as they can grow to quite large sizes and possess a powerful kick.
The Goodwellow’s tree kangaroo makes a good choice because it’s one of the smallest species of kangaroo (reaching about 15 lbs) and it’s also quite distinct from its terrestrial cousins. Like other tree kangaroos, this one lacks the overgrown hind legs (although it’s still a prolific leaper). It also has a thick, wooly coat and a stripped tail.
6. Superb Fairy-Wren
The superb fairy-wren often comes first in polls to find Australia’s favorite bird. People are simply enamored with its striking blue plumage (on the males anyway). They’re also intrigued by the superb fairy-wren’s promiscuity. The male would often charm the female using various courtship displays and gifting her yellow flower petals. They form a pair for life, but that does not stop either one from mating with other individuals who might even assist later on in raising the offspring.
Right off the bat, let’s not confuse the mandarinfish (one word) with the mandarin fish native to China. Australia has some of the greatest reefs in the world so, naturally, they would also be home to some marvelous species of fish. With its intricate and colorful design, the mandarinfish surely is a strong candidate for the most beautiful fish in the world.
8. Western Pygmy Possum
There are four species of pygmy possum endemic to Australia and they’re all pretty darn cute so take your pick as to which one you like best. The western variety, also known as a mundarda, is quite common throughout most of southwestern Australia. Like the boodie, the pygmy possum also fell prey to introduced predators, but it was never in danger of extinction.
9. Sugar Glider
The sugar glider will be known to many non-Australians because it has become a popular exotic pet. After all, who could resist those giant, loving eyes? Well, a lot of us are going to have to since it is still illegal to keep a sugar glider as a pet in many parts of the world, including most of Australia. The sugar glider is similar in appearance to the flying squirrel, although this is simply a case of convergent evolution – the two species are not related.
Often described as the “happiest animal in the world”, the quokka can charm anyone with its winning smile. It can’t be found on mainland Australia except for a few colonies in protected reserves, but it does thrive on a few islands off the western coast. Rottnest Island is the most prominent example where quokkas roam free in the streets in large numbers. This has turned Rottnest Island into a popular tourist spot for people keen to see and interact with the friendly marsupial.