Animals to look out for on Kangaroo Island

Through our lovely job as tour guides on Kangaroo Island we were able to experience some of Australia’s wildlife up close and untampered with. You simply had to sit in your camping chair, take a walk to the beach, or even just drive, to encounter Kangaroo Island’s best feature: its harmony with wildlife. Of course it’s never perfect and the countless roadkills are a sad sight but we successfully cohabited with black tiger snakes, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, echidnas, goannas, black cockatoos, wedge-tailed eagles, magpies, all kinds of insects and spiders and many more animals we unfortunately did not get on camera. No roadkills and respectively no bites other than mosquitoes. 

Short FYI: Our Kangaroo Island video is currently in the making.

In the meantime, we figured we’d tell you some random facts about all the wildlife there! There will be no references as our references are our own experiences, facts given to us  for our job, and the wonderful people who work with and live amongst these animals. 

We hope to also show everyone that: yes some some animals are dangerous, some eat too much grass and maybe kill crops but most are simply misunderstood. They all deserve a place in our environment and KI is a great place to show you how it’s done!

You might even learn something new about the animals you live right next to!

Kangaroo Island Koala:

  • Koalas eat up to 800g of eucalyptus leaves a day (it’s their main and often only diet)
  • Koalas only eat about 40-50 species of eucalyptus leaves. There are over 900 different eucalyptus species in Oz
  • They sleep 20 hours a day and spend the rest of it eating (or mating)
  • They have a special organ (caecum) that helps them break down the eucalyptus leaf (it is toxic to humans)
  • The leaf makes their brain a little fuzzy (some people call it being “high” or “drunk”)  
  • Koalas are not native to Kangaroo Island. 18 healthy individuals were imported due to a chlamydia outbreak on the mainland in 1920. They quickly became the 50,000 we see today
  • Good fact for pictures: To get the attention of a Koala, simply rustle some leaves together, they’ll think you’ve found a good source of food and look your way! (Just don’t abuse it. They are not stupid and will eventually get sick of your photos)

Echidna

  • Flicks their tongue 100 times a minute (especially good to eat ants and burrowed insects)
  • Have the lowest body temperature of any mammal at 32°C
  • Can create an abdomen pouch that is similar to that of the kangaroo for its joey. It essentially tenses its abs for about a month to take care of the newborn in its warm pouch! Talk about a 6-pack workout.
  • PG-13: The echidna has a 4-headed penis. I warned you. But yup. These cute little spiky furry creatures know how to please.

Kangaroo Island Kangaroo

  • Have darker and thicker fur to endure Kangaroo Island’s tough climate
  • Can go up to a month without drinking water
  • Joeys (baby kangaroos) stay in mom’s pouch until they’re 18 months old. If the joey gets a sibling he leaves at 9 months but continues to suckle in the mom’s pouch until he is mature (20 months).
  • Thanks to the KI environment kangaroos never really go hungry so they have unlearned their extraordinary embryonic diapause. Their mainland counterparts still have this ability. Embryonic diapause means they can put their babies on hold (up to a year) whilst they’re pregnant and await better living conditions for their young. 

Tammar Wallaby

  • Their milk contains a bacteria fighting compound that is 100x more potent than penicillin
  • Has great eye sight – can even see the blue green bands of the colour spectrum
  • Can live off of salt water

Rosenberg Goanna

  • Goannas build series of burrows and tunnels that they share with one another. They essentially have a Goanna Airbnb set up in which everyone rotates houses every night in a random order.
  • Is the biggest predator on Kangaroo Island
  • Has small but still significant venom glands (often bite their pray and stalk it whilst the venom takes care of the rest)
  • Goannas are one of the few animals who can survive snake bites. They simply sleep it off. They are actually one of the snake’s main predators

General Kangaroo Island Facts

IMG_4954.jpg

  • The weather is generally colder than the mainland so animals develop darker furs and skins
  • There are very few predators – no foxes, no rabbits – remember the goanna is the biggest
  • It’s actually the 3rd biggest island off the Australian Coast (145km long and 90km wide)
  • KI was cut off from mainland about 10,000 years ago
  • Human pop. approx. 4500, koala pop. approx. 50,000, kangaroo pop. approx. 200,000, wallaby pop. unknown (vague estimate at a million)

Black Tiger Snake

  • 4th, 5th, 6th most venomous snake in the world (depends who you ask)
  • Dark skin keeps it warm in winter months not requiring hibernation
  • Dark skin also allows it to give birth to live young (most snakes lay eggs)
  • Is relatively docile compared to its mainland sister the “tiger snake” – likely due to the lack of predators

Wedge-Tailed Eagle

  • Mates for life & lives up to 40 years
  • Wingspan of up to 2.8m
  • Could kill an adult sized kangaroo – the male distracts the kangaroo while the female swoops from behind breaking its neck. Only happens in situations of extreme starvation.
  • Build nests of up to 5m^2
  • Can fly up to 2000m high
  • Their vision is approximately 8-10x better than ours, they can see a mouse’s ear twitch from up to a kilometre away!
  • You will most likely see them soaring above you hidden away in plain sight

Huntsman Spider

  • As the name suggests: it hunts other spiders
  • Is a misunderstood best friend who keeps your house clean of unfriendlies
  • His bite won’t kill you – yes it’s really painful, but you won’t have to endure it if you don’t poke it
  • No he won’t go into your mouth when you sleep 

Red-back Spider

Redback

  • Just don’t mess with it
  • It can kill you
  • There has been a recent red-back spider bite death in Queensland (in 2016) but previously to that, there hadn’t been one for 37 years

Magpie

  • Very intelligent Bird that can develop the brain equivalent to that of a 4 year old
  • Can remember up to 100 faces – so don’t be an asshole. They will remember. They will then teach their kids to remember! So just be nice
  • Can be easily trained with the right motivation! The raptor domain was able to train a magpie in 2 weeks to pick up people’s trash

Bull Ants

Bull Ant.jpg

  • Can grow up to 4cm
  • Ouch, yes the sting has some venom (keep an eye out if you’re allergic otherwise it’s just going to hurt a lot)
  • Nest extends several meters below ground
  • They will attack any intruder that comes too near to their nest (no matter their size!)
  • Good fact for pictures: If you see one of their nests, lightly blow or poke their den with a stick (please try not to move the rocks, poke the ants or destroy their nest though, just tap it enough to make vibrations) they will come out

Black Cockatoo

cockatoo.jpg

  • Lives for 40-50 years
  • Father flies up to 12km in a day to find food for his partner and baby
  • Parents return to same nest each year to lay one or two eggs
  • Look out for their feathers, they are extremely colourful. It is also a way to distinguish between the breeds!
  • Good fact for pictures: They love nuts and seeds. You might even be fortunate enough to gain their trust. Just remember, as with most birds, don’t touch them. If you must, do it with the back of your hand, your fingers are greasy and leave oils on the birds’ feathers that make it difficult for them to fly. 

General notice: please respect all wildlife. Just treat them as you would your own kids (whilst keeping the dangers in mind) and you’ll be fine. Don’t poke them with a stick, don’t cuddle a snake, don’t chase them. That being said, the interactions are awesome and sincere. If you find yourself lucky enough to gain an animal’s trust, truly cherish the moment!

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