|Dingoes at the park... and someone's backyard well within howling range.|
|Everyone loves a cracker!|
|A pretty peacock.|
At Featherdale, it is all about native Australia animals. Everyone has heard of a Kangaroo or a Koala, but have you ever heard of a Quokka? What about a Wombat or an Echidna? I will get to them later, but first I want to tell you about the more common, but no less loveable or interesting animals. As soon as we walked into the park, we were met by some very inquisitive, and slightly hungry, wallabies. Now, everyone knows that the Australia Rugby Team goes by this name as well, but these cute, furry little animals are nothing like their 6ft human counterparts. Hopping around casually, these miniature kangaroos eat out of your hand, and also love a belly rub. There are a few different species of wallaby, but all are herbivores, and come out to feed in the early morning or late evening when its not too hot. Most wallabies live in rocky areas of Australia, and are known to climb high rocky outcrops, or hop into caves to escape predators - mothers often leave their joeys (a baby wallaby or kangaroo) in the safety of caves while they go foraging for food.
|Koalas are often mistakenly called 'bears.'|
Then of course, there are the Koalas. Everyone's favourites - and well, why not? They are cute, furry, and half asleep all the time so easy to pat! The park has quite a few of these little leaf-munching marsupials. There are the enclosures for the koalas, which provide shelter for them, and then there is 'centre stage.' This is where they pose (while eating usually) with tourists (yes, I did it too...), receive hugs, pats on the bum (it's far enough away from their mouth that you don't get bitten... yes they bite!), and high-powered camera flashes in the eye every 10 seconds. The life of a star. Koalas weren't always so adored - in fact, they were hunted heavily for their furs in the 20th Century before being classified as protected. Now there are numerous Koala sanctuaries (such as the one in Port Macquarie that I have visited), and koala numbers have somewhat stabilised. Their habitats are still threatened, mainly by agriculture and urbanisation - the usual suspects.
|Tawny Frogmouths pretending to be statues... and doing a swell job at it!|
|If I don't move, you won't be able to see me...|
|Don't look at my backwards feet!|
Now, what are Echidnas? Are they a porcupine? Are they mammals or marsupials? And what is a marsupial anyway?! Well, let's tackle the marsupial business first. Echidnas are actually a totally different classification called a Monotreme. A mammal is warm-blooded and gives birth to live young, and the echidna is warm blooded BUT lays eggs. Marsupials are mammals they keep their young in pouches, which the echidna also does - so you see why they need a whole new group to belong to? The Platypus is also a Monotreme - and together they make up the only 2 in the world! The spikey little creatures are again, very cute (as most Australian animals are), but also very practical. They have a tongue that is 20cms long (all the better to eat termites with!) and spines all over their back for protection, and if that isn't enough, they are also excellent diggers, and can dig a hole very quickly, get in it, and 'spike up' to keep hungry dingoes off them. I must add that their back feet and actually pointed backwards - front ones for digging, back ones for shovelling dirt out... genius! To add to this strangeness, but also practicality, their pouch is also facing backwards - why? So the little one resting in the pouch doesn't get a full face of dirt when mum is making a new home. Who thinks up all of these things!!!
|What do you mean there's no more?|
Now the Quokka is an animal that I had no idea even existed! The Quokka is a small, rat-like marsupial, only found on Rottnest Island, just off the coast from Perth in Western Australia. The island was originally named 'Rotte Nest' by the Dutch explorers who found the island, and this comes from the Dutch word 'Rattennest' which means 'rat nest.' About the size of a domestic tabby, these little creatures were extremely friendly, and came straight up to say hi. We fed them of course, and they never seemed to get enough. At the same time, belly strokes and hand holding (the cutest little paws you've ever seen!!), as well as a bit of nose rubbing were perfectly allowed - as long as there was food. Are all Australians the same?
|I ssssssee you... a snake in the reptile house.|
|GIven a bad rep by the Madagasgar films...|
|It's just how things are done for a bat!|
Although there was a storm that day, we weren't deterred and forged on ahead to see the penguins and some bats. We all know about penguins - small, black and white birds that look like they're wearing a tux, so I won't go on about them. I love them all the same though! I will mention a few things about Flying Foxes - the type of bat we get in Australia. Now, any travellers to Australia will know what I'm talking about - you get scared every time you see a few flying over you somewhere in cities (big populations in Sydney and Brisbane), and you think that all bats suck blood. Shame on you! These 'foxes' are lovely creatures, if not just a little noisy at around dusk time. They spend their time hanging upside down in fig trees, eating, screeching and pooping, all the wrong way up. Although they can be little biters, I did pat the soft belly of a few, and a couple of leathery wings as well. They do cause a lot of noise, and a few problems (especially in the Botanic Gardens), but they are native and protected... and besides, who doesn't like bats? They are actually classes as 'superbats,' as they can weigh up to 1kg, and have a wingspan of 1m - pretty super for a little furry bat. The mothers are good mums - they do everything, including fly, with their baby attached to them under the wing! A problem for these little dears though are power lines - they often get zapped and die, leaving orphans - if you see one, call WIRES and they will come and rescue it.
|Is is Monday already? Where did the weekend go?|