You’ve heard of Australia’s kangroos, but did you know there were several varieties? In Tasmania, they have the small variety, the Eastern Graya Gray Kangaroo – also known at the Eastern Kangaroo, which we found all over the place, but close up in several wildlife refuges and healing centers. Very calm and approachable there, where they were used to humans.
They also have wallabies, which are sort of like small kangaroos that tend to run out in front of cars and meet a predictable end. We found them sleeping between in the vineyards and bounding around forests at night in one place. Turns out they love to have their chests rubbed. Like kangaroos, they have pouches to carry their young.
Then there are wombats. Burrowing animals about the size of a beaver, they have round bodies with short legs and pouches for their young! Must be a Down Under thing, those pouches. They don’t stray far from their burrows and if they are threatened they run to their burrows to hide, blocking the entrance with their rear ends. No, I am not making this up. Turns out , they have a very hard shell protecting their butts so a predator can’t hurt them there. If a predator tries to reach around and attempt to pull the wombat out, it will slam its body repeatedly against the unfortunate attacker’s arm or hand and smash it to bits with that hard shell. Forewarned is forearmed, I guess.
Koalas are cute and cuddly and so ubiquitous there is nothing new to add here. Salt Water crocodiles live in the rivers and are the single most prehistoric creature I have ever seen. They are huge, first off, more towards fifteen feet or so, massive creatures that seem like creatures in Jurassic Park. We saw several, all from a safe distance or from behind walls. There are also other river or water dwelling creatures, but I need to move on to Tasmanian Devils.
Everyone knows about Tasmanian Devils, right? Except you probably don’t know enough until you’ve seen one. Or fifteen. We visited a Tasmanian Devil refuge and shelter, which they had a whole bunch of them in pens according to recovery and release status, which are the stated goals. They get Tasmanian Devils found orphaned or injured and nurse them back to health for release back into the wild. The Devils have been decimated by Facial Tumor Disease and these fellows will be released in a location the disease has not been detected.
Tasmanian Devils look a little like over-sized ferrets or maybe otters. They are built low to the ground, and they seem to like to run around a lot. When you see one looking at you, they are actually kind of cute. But then they open their mouths and all you can see are teeth. They are very shy and do not attack unless threatened. They do a lot of posturing and sparring with each other, but mostly they hiss and scream. Two Tasmanian Devils screaming at each other sounds like the biggest cat fight you have ever heard. Terrifying. Hence, the name.
Finally, pound for pound, they have the strongest jaws of any animal in the world. When they eat something – they are scavengers, for the most part – they eat everything. Fur, bones toenails – all of it. Also, they have no table manners. It is hard to watch, but we did it because we had already eaten and had nothing to lose. Well, not if we didn’t look too hard.
So add in Emus and Cassawarys, both huge birds standing much taller than you or I, the latter black feathered and blue headed and almost never seen outside of a shelter or refuge, and you have some small idea of the variety of wildlife you can find Down Under.
Plan a trip, if you can. You will not regret it.