Australian Wildlife: What is your favourite cuddly creature?

When it comes to wildlife, Australia is a fascinating place. The country is full of bugs, fish, rodents, invertebrates, and other critters that can kill a human being in an instant.

Ironically, Australia is also home to some of the cutest creatures you will ever lay your eyes on!

That is, if you’re lucky enough to spot one of the following animals. But when you do, especially from up close, I promise you it makes for quite a magical moment.

Wallaby sitting on the rocks, Tasmania
Wallaby sitting on the orange rocks in Tasmania

Some of the following animals are native Ozzies, others are true Tassie species, but all of them prominently present in certain areas of the country. Not to mention fabulously fascinating!

When it comes to Australian wildlife, what would be your favorite cuddly creature?

Wombat

Wombats are furry marsupials with a round body shape and relatively short legs. They are native to Australia, and grow up to become about 1 meter in length.

The cutest things!

Wombat in Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania
Wombat walking towards me and looking straight at the camera

As opposed to most of the other animals in this list, wombats generally move slowly. So unless they feel threatened, you actually have a good chance to take a photo when you spot a wombat.

Or better yet, take your photo with a wombat!
This guy – or girl? – must have felt really comfortable when crossing my path, as it came right up to me and even grabbed my left shoe! “Err… I am not supposed to disturb you, but… I’ll give you some attention if that’s what you want…” 😉

Curious wombat playing with my shoe in Tasmania
“Hey buddy! I like you too, but we are going to have to say bye now…”

Koala

Koalas love sleeping and hanging out in Eucalyptus trees in coastal areas of Southern and Eastern Australia. The Koala is often called “Koala bear”, but this is actually a mistaken description. Bears are mammals, while Koalas are marsupials! And you have just met its closest relative. Indeed, the wombat! :)

Everyone who has ever seen or held (!) a koala, would probably agree that they are pretty frigging cute. Sleepy balls of fur, complete with goofy smiles, and a slightly awkward looking nose. How could you not instantly fall in love? <3 <3

Koala with a goofy smile eating gum leaves
Koala with a goofy smile while eating his favourite gum leaves! [Photo: Magic 89.9 site]
Have you ever wondered why koalas sleep as much as they do? Any idea how much they really sleep?

On my tours, people tend to giggle or stare at me in amazement when I provide the answers to these questions. The fact is, koalas sleep more than 80% of the time, which comes down to about 20 hours per day.  [At this point, most teenagers get some form of a “I wish I was that lucky” expression on their faces. 😉 ]

The rest of the day, koalas pass their time eating, defending their territory, and – in the case of males – finding the perfect mate. Koalas only eat leaves of the Eucalyptus tree, and its this incredibly restricted diet that causes the extreme sleepiness. Not only do so-called “gum leaves” contain toxins, but they are high in fibre and low in nutrition. The result? These leaves take a long time to digest… Zzz…

Koalas in the wild on the Great Ocean Road, Australia
Spotted: Little balls of fur hanging in the trees on the Great Ocean Road!

Kangaroo

Kangaroos are the largest species in the family of the Macropodidae, which literally means “large foot”. Their large and powerful hind legs and feet are used for making the characteristic hops and jumps, while the long and muscular tail serves to keep their balance.

Staring Kangaroos, Grampians National Park, Australia
Eastern Grey Kangaroos stand an average of 2m or 6.6ft tall, and weigh about 66 kilos or 145 pounds!
Curious kangaroo checking out my bag
Curious kangaroo about to perform a bag check on me! ;-)

Like many other animals endemic to Australia, kangaroos are marsupials. After birth, these animals carry their young in a pouch for them to fully develop.

Other famous marsupials include the wallaby, wombat, koala, and Tasmanian devil.

Kangaroo Joey trying to climb back into Momma Roo
Joey trying to hop into “momma roo”… Such an endearing sight. Not even after falling out 4 times, would this little fellow accept the fact that he had become too big for mommy’s pouch…!

Did you know that the Australian government estimated the kangaroo population to consist of more than 34 million animals?! For some reason they seem to have stopped counting after 2011, but even with today’s population numbers that would mean there are approximately 10 million more kangaroos than there are people!

Hopping kangaroos in Grampians National Park, Australia
Hungry kangaroos happily hopping towards a popular ‘dinner’ site in the Grampians

Wallaby

Wallabies belong to the same family as the kangaroo, representing a small to mid-sized range of macropod species in Australia and New Guinea.

It is hard to establish what exactly differentiates wallabies from kangaroos. In general, the term ‘wallaby’ is simply used for any macropod that is smaller than a kangaroo or the in-between sized “wallaroo”.

Wallabies grow anywhere between 45 centimeters to 1.05 meters tall and their tail can become as long as 75 centimeters. Isn’t this wallaby mommy adorable? :)

Wallaby mother with a little joey in her pouch, Tasmania
Wallaby mother with a little joey in her pouch

You don’t often get the chance to have close encounters with Australian wildlife, but if it were for the wallabies in Freycinet National Park in Tasmania, they would be all over you!

Truly must have been some of the most curious creatures I have ever seen. Not to mention the most shameless of beggars!

I’m sorry my friend, but you can’t have my cookie! The signs clearly show I am not allowed to feed you…

Close encounter with a curious wallaby, Tasmania
Getting cozy with my besty the Wallaby :-)

Tasmanian Devil

Launched to world fame by the Warner Bros, you might be surprised to find that the Tasmanian Devil is quite different from its crazy and hyper-active Looney Tunes character counterpart.

Tasmanian Devil - By Looney Tunes, Warner Bros
Tasmanian Devil by Looney Tunes

A Tasmanian Devil has the size of a small dog and despite its somewhat plump appearance, this little fellow is surprisingly quick! It will also swim across rivers and climb trees far better than I ever could. 😉

Tasmanian Devil crawling out of a hollow trunk
Tasmanian Devil crawling out of a hollow trunk

Although its main mainland predator the Dingo is absent in Tasmania, unfortunately this little devil seems to be well underway on a road to self-destruction. In fact, if we don’t do something to save the Tasmanian devil, officially an endangered species since 2008, a rare form of face cancer – Devil Facial Tumor Disease – might very well finish this unique creature off far too soon…

Visit TassieDevil.com.au to learn more and see what you can do to help.

Tasmanian Devil - Photo by Tassie Devil
Tasmanian Devil staring at the camera. [Photo by Tassie Devil]

Echidna

Across Australia, you’ll see road signs warning you for possible crossing Echidnas. We drove past one of those on our way to Queenstown in Tasmania and, sure enough, less than a minute later I had to slam on the brakes to give Edna the Echidna her right of way.

Echidna sitting in the bushes
An Echidna after making it to the other side of the road

As soon as the danger had passed, my excitement for spotting one of these unique creatures, scurrying across the asphalt and into the bushes on the other side, turned to disappointment for not having been able to take a better photograph.

Luckily, as soon as we got home, I came across the following picture on Twitter. I couldn’t believe my eyes, what an amazing shot! And even more amazing, he gave me permission to use his photo! Thank you, Jason!

An Echidna posing in front of Cradle Mountain, Tasmania
An Echidna posing in front of Cradle Mountain, Tasmania. Photo credit: Jason Stephens.

Platypus

Another animal that is tricky to portray – or even spot! – is the Platypus.
With a beak like a duck, a body like a seal, a tail like a beaver, and feet like an otter, Platypuses are absolutely amazing swimmers.

Maybe not the most cuddly animal on this list, but definitely one of the most fascinating of creatures. Especially for scientists studying evolutionary biology (!).

One place where you can go to admire these cute “freaks of nature” is the Melbourne Zoo. But even after several visits, with all the patience in the world, and an anti-movement setting on the camera, I still don’t have a photo worth showing you!

Platypus at the Melbourne Zoo, Australia
Platypus: the most fascinating creature? [Photo Melbourne Zoo]
These semiaquatic animals love to hide out in shallow waters, preferably overgrown by trees or otherwise covered by water plants. During a kayak trip on the Huon River in Tasmania we were lucky enough to spot several Platypus, but even when swimming on the surface they manage to remain almost invisible!

Kayaking on Huon River, Tasmania
The Huon Valley, a recommended Tasmanian destination!

 

What is your favorite animal?
If you were visiting Australia, which animal would you be most excited about to meet / spot / photograph?

 

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