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Mammals

wombat

Wombat

Wombats live in Australia. They are found in the forests of Tasmania and Eastern Australia.

Wombat's are marsupials, that is the babies develop in their mother's pouch. They emerge from the pouch after around 6 months. Wombats have strong feet and sharp claws, and are really good at digging. They dig long deep tunnel shaped burrows in which they hid during the heat of the day. They use their claws to dig for grass and plant roots at night. At night they feed on grass and plant roots, using their claws to dig for these.

The wombat is  marsupial and  digs burrows.

A wombat is covered with coarse grey or brown fur, with a large head, a large nose and small ears. It is solidly built with large claws for digging. Its body has a rounded appearance.

Its back is hard and bony. This bony back is a useful defence against intruders in the burrow, as the wombat uses its back to crush them against the burrow wall.

The wombat is nocturnal, which means it is active at night, eating grasses, roots and shrubs. It stays in a burrow in daytime, though sometimes can be seen basking in the sun at the burrow entrance.

It lives alone, except for a female with young.

Interesting Facts

The wombat Vombatus ursinus grows to between 70cm and 1.2m long with a short stubby tail only a couple of centimetres long. Adults weigh about 25 to 35 kilograms.  Wombats are the largest of Australia's burrowing animals.

Wombat burrows can be about 20 metres long, with several entrances and chambers. A wombat generally has a number of burrows in its territory, and may visit several during its nightly wanderings. The wombat marks its territory by leaving droppings (scats) on logs and rocks.

The female's pouch has its opening facing the back legs. When she is digging, the pouch does not fill with soil. A female wombat gives birth to one very tiny young, which moves to her pouch after being born. It stays in the pouch for about 6 months, suckling milk from a teat in the pouch. After it leaves the pouch, it will follow her for another 11 months.

There are three different kinds (species) of wombat.

The southern hairy-nosed wombat is found only on the Nullarbor Plain in South Australia, and the northern hairy-nosed wombat is found only in a small area of Queensland. Both species of hairy-nosed wombat have suffered from loss of habitat and competition from introduced animals such as cattle, sheep and rabbits.

Common wombats are found through forest and woodland areas along the eastern and southern coast of Australia, and in Tasmania. The common wombat is not endangered, although its habitat is decreasing. The nose of the common wombat is naked and its ears are rounded. Two of the three species of wombat are endangered. They are the northern hairy-nosed wombat, which is critically endangered, and the southern hairy-nosed wombat. Both have softer fur than the common wombat, and, as their names suggest, their noses are fur-covered. Their ears are pointy.

Although wombats are generally not active during the day, their burrows may be seen from the walking tracks at Walkabout Park.  The common wombats may be able to be spotted at Walkabout Park in our upcoming nocturnal tours.

koala

Koala

Scientific Name: Phascolarctos cinereus

Common Name: Koala

Found in: Australia

IUCN Redlist Status: Vulnerable

Life Span: 10 – 14 years in the wild

Did you know:

Koalas have 3 fingers and 2 thumbs on each hand

Koalas are marsupials – they are not bears!

Koalas entire diet consists of eucalyptus leaves. In the Dharug aboriginal language, the word "koala" means “no drink”. The koala gets up to 80 per cent of water from the eucalyptus and will usually only be seen drinking water in times of drought or fire.

The story that koalas are drunk or stoned from eucalyptus is not true. The eucalyptus leaves give them very little energy, so they conserve their energy by sleeping up to 20 hours per day.

Estimated number left in the wild: Less than 43,000

Endangered due to:

  • Habitat destruction/loss
  • Increased disturbance by humans
  • Injury or death from traffic
  • Injury or death from domestic dogs
  • Effects of garden pesticides getting into water ways
  • Increased competition for food and territory because of overcrowding (due to habitat loss)

What we can do:

  • Support breeding programs for release
  • Keep pets indoors at night and in secured high-fenced yards during the day.
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle paper and plastic water bottles
  • Reduce the need for logging and habitat destruction
  • Be an eco-tourist: Stick to pathways in the bush and leave nothing but footprints take nothing but photos

No Trees means No Koalas!

Author: Erin Healy, the Walkabout Park Team

 

koala

This Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list has been put together from questions that visitors regularly ask our rangers.

1. Can I hold a koala?

No. In the Australian State of New South Wales, as with most other States, it is illegal for any zoo or sanctuary to allow a visitor to hold a koala. Only trained accredited rangers are allowed to hold a koala. This is a sensible law as it protects koalas from being stressed because a human wants to give it a hug. Koalas are wild animals and have a natural fear of humans, especially humans who they don't know. Our rangers are trained on how to handle a koala safely and how to recognise signs of stress. We do allow visitors to touch the koalas, however please understand that if a koala is showing signs of stress we will not allow visitors to interact with it. Our animals' wellbeing is our number one priority. There are some States (like Queensland) where holding a koala is legal but, even so, responsible keepers looking after those koalas would use discretion and not put their animals into a stressful situation.

2. Are koalas endangered?

Yes. Although they are officially classified as "vulnerable" and on the "threatened species list", koala population numbers are crashing. The impacts of human-related dangers (loss of habitat, loss of food trees, global warming with extreme weather events, cars, dogs, diseases resulting from inbreeding due to loss of wildlife corridors, and hunters) are dire. If we don't do something to save the koala, this iconic Australian animal will go extinct.

3. Where are wild koalas found?

They are found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

4. How long does a joey (baby) stay with its mother?

The joey will stay in the mother's pouch for around 6 months. During this time it will grow from around 5g to around 500g and develop from a pinkie (undeveloped foetus) to a fully formed fully furred viable animal. From around 6 months the joey will ride on the mother’s back or cling to her belly, putting its head into the pouch to suckle. The joey is dependent on its mother's milk until it is around 12 months old. From 1 year on, the joey is independent and can survive without the mother, although most joeys stay with the mother until they are around 18 months old when they will move away and live completely independently.

5. At what age do koalas start to breed?

The female can breed from the age of 2 and the male from the age of 3. However, both are only fully physically mature at 4 years old.

6. How long do koalas live for?

Wild male koalas are known to live for up to 15 years, and females for up to 18 years. However, it is estimated that the average life expectancy for a wild koala is only around 10 because there are so many factors introduced by humans that impact on their health and survival. The World Record for the oldest koala is "Birthday Girl" who was rescued and lived at the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie in NSW - she died in 2011 when she was 25 years old.

7. How can you tell a koala's age?

As with many animals, age can be estimated from tooth wear. This is surprisingly accurate in koalas as they all share a similar diet - mainly eucalyptus leaf - and eating patterns, so the amount of wear on the molar and pre-molar teeth will be similar between one koala and another. Up until the age of 4 when the koala is physically mature, skull size and body length, and the ratio of size to weight, are also useful measurements. After the age of 4, size and weight don't change much so tooth wear is the only useful measure in an adult koala.

8. How much leaf does a koalas eat?

Koalas wake up for short intervals to eat throughout the day and night. In 24 hours a koala will eat approximately 500g of leaf. However, because a koala mostly eats 'tip' (the soft young leaves at the top of the branch), the animal will only eat a small proportion of the leaf that it can reach from its perch so it does need to move around in the tree, or between trees, to find enough food. The reason koalas eat mostly tip is these soft new leaves are both higher in energy content themselves, and easier to digest so the koala uses less energy to break them down.

9. Do koalas eat all kinds of eucalyptus leaves?

There are more than 900 species of eucalyptus tree in Australia. Around 50 eucalyptus species are eaten by koalas. However, each animal will have preferred foods and most will eat around 10 species of locally available eucalyptus. They will also eat other types of tree such as paperbark and corymbia. They mostly eat leaves but will also eat lesser amounts of flowers, buds and bark from time to time.

10. Do koalas eat anything other than eucalyptus?

The koala's main diet is eucalyptus (gum) leaves as well as smaller amounts of eucalyptus flowers, buds, stems and bark. Koalas are also occasionally seen eating foods that are from other types of tree and plant such as casuarina, melaleuca and tea tree. All koalas also eat dirt which is thought to contain essential dietary trace elements to keep them healthy, as well as good bacteria for their gut health.

11. Do eucalyptus leaves contain drugs that make the koala sleepy?

No. However, eucalyptus leaves have very little energy so the koala conserves the little energy it does get from the leaf by sleeping for up to 20 hours per day. Koalas need to save their energy for moving between feed trees, digesting the food they eat, looking for mates in the breeding season, and escaping from predators. They are surprisingly fast and agile when they choose to be.

12. Are koalas very slow and clumsy on the ground?

No. Not only are koalas expert fast tree climbers, but they are also very quick when on the ground. They do need to conserve energy so won't run unless they have to, but when they do they can reach speeds of more than 20mph or 30km/hour over short distances.

13. Are koalas nocturnal?

This is not a straightforward question. Koalas sleep for 18 to 20 hours per day to conserve energy because eucalyptus leaves, their main food, contains so little energy. Koalas wake to eat at various intervals through the day and night. Being well adapted to hot Australian conditions, koalas sleep through most of the heat of the day and are more active, e.g. moving between food trees or looking for mates, during the cooler nights. It is probably most accurate to class them as 'crepuscular' (active at dawn and dusk).

14. Do koalas have a mating call?

Yes. The male makes a loud rumbling grating and booming bellow that can be heard across very large distances. This is both a warning to other males to stay out of his territory, and a call to females. The females also bellow, usually in response to a male calling.

15. What predators eat koalas?

Dogs and dingoes will eat joey and adult koalas. Eagles will take joeys. When they are in the trees under leafy cover, they are largely safe from predators. However, they have to come down to the ground to move between food trees and look for mates. It is on the ground that they are most vulnerable. Dingoes, although a natural predator for koalas, have little impact on the species (as they do on all species) because they do not have a preferred food and, with their very varied diet, they are unlikely to regularly eat one species (koala or any other animals). Domestic dogs allowed to roam through the bush, or gone feral and living wild, are the biggest danger for koalas. Domestic dogs do have individual food preferences and, if even one dog has a taste for koalas, it is likely to hunt koalas relentlessly and can decimate a wild koala population over a very short time period.

 

bilby

Bilby

Some facts about the Bilby

From conservation partnersAustralia Walkabout Wildlife Park and Billy Bilby™ (courtesty of Bilby and Friends Enterprises Pty Ltd).

What is a bilby?

A bilby is a shy, nocturnal marsupial, unique to Australia. It has a grey and white silky coat, long, sensitive ears and a pink pointed nose. It has thick claws and strong forelimbs that enable it to dig rapidly in the desert soil. It is about the size of a cat, with the male growing up to half a metre in length from nose-tip to tail, and weighing around one to two and a half kilos (just under six pounds). It has an unusual black or dark grey tail with a pure white brush at the tip, which it holds in the air behind itelf when it walks or runs about. These delightful little creatures normally live for about six or seven years.

What are the ancient, traditional Aboriginal regional names for the bilby?

Mankarr (Manjilijarra - Western Australia)
Warlpajirri (Warlpiri - Northern Territory)
Ninu (Pitjantjatjarra - South Australia)
Ahurt (Arrernte - Northern Territory)
Dol-Goitch or Dal-gyte (widespread)

What is the modern scientific name of the bilby?

Macrotis lagotis: The greater bilby (Family: Peramelidae)

Where does the bilby live? What does it eat?

Once much more widespread across the continent, the bilby now lives in a variety of habitats in arid desert regions of Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland, typically where spinnifex and dry grasses are found. It selects grassy areas, often with sparse shrubs or low bushes, so that it can move about easily, see or sense any luking predators, and can always have a clear run back home. It tends to lead a solitary life, digging many spiraling burrows in the ground, which can each be up to three metres (ten feet) long and two metres deep. On average, the bilby will dig a new burrow every couple of weeks, and over a period it will use each and every one of them. At night, the bilby will leave the protection of its burrow to forage for food, using its long snout to dig out bulbs, tubers, spiders, termites, witchetty grubs and fungi, and using its long tongue to lick up grass seeds that have fallen to the ground. On average, the bilby will move up to about 240 metres (750 feet) from the tunnel entrance of the burrow but, depending on food supply, it will sometimes move further afield.

At what time of the year are the bilby young born?

Providing the food supply is plentiful, bilbies will breed throughout the year. About fourteen days after the start of development, the tiny babies, measuring only 11mm (about half an inch), will travel along the birth canal an instinctively climb up the mother's silky coat into her backward facing pouch (backward facing so that when she is digging, the pouch will not flll up with soil). Like other young mammals, the baby bilby needs its mother's milk to grow, and to gain weight and strength. With marsupials, the teats are positioned inside the pouch (the bilbies have eight) and the baby will latch on toa teat, feeding as and when it requires, in a warm, totally safe environment.

While it is there a tissue forms on each side of its mouth, to help it to hang on tightly. This tissue breaks down about sixty days later, enabling the young bilby to climb in and out of the pouch until it is about eighty days old. For the next couple of weeks, the babies are left in the burrow while the mother is foraging for food, but she returns frequently to allow the babies to suckle from her teats. The babies will then go out foraging at night too, sleeping in the burrow during the day and this will continue until there are new-born in her pouch. This period can vary from an average of two weeks after they are permanently out of the pouch, to many weeks later.

How many young does a female bilby have?

Generally one or two, but occasionally three babies are born at one time. Sometimes only one will survive, although rarely three might survive.

They mature very quickly and by six months of age the young female is ready to produce a family of her own.

Why have I not seen a bilby yet?

In earlier times, bilbies were found across large areas of Australia, but numbers have declined rapidly in the last one hundred years because of competition for food with farm livestock and feral rabbits introduced into Australia since European settlement. Other feral animals introduced into Australia, and not native to the continent, such as feral cats, dogsand foxes, have also severely depleted bilby numbers by preying on them for food, to the point that they have been officially classified nationally, internationally and in the Northern Territory, as "vulnerable to extinction", while in Queensland under their state legislation the bilby is classified as "endangered".

As the bilby is an "endangered species", what is being done to help the bilbies?

In order to try and save the bilby from extinction, there have been a number of efforts to create predator-free reserves in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, with varying degrees of success. Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park in New South Wales has joined forces with South Australia to further this work starting in 2010.

Importantly, veryinteresting work is being carried out local Aboriginal communities in the Outback, close to the areas where the bilby still exists in its traditional habitat and natural environment. For these communities, the bilby is not only a lovely animal, but a very important part of their culture and spiritual beliefs (The Dreaming), literally going back tens of thousands of years. Therefore, for Aboriginal Australians, who did not introduce the feral animals now threatening the bilbies' survival, the loss of the bilby would be very deeply felt. Local Aboriginal communities are working alongside Land Council members and scientists to suvey and monitor bilby populations, using traditional tracking skills and expert knowledge of the coutnry. Special methods are being developed to reduce the numbers of predators preying on the bilby. Some of these projects are overseen the the Threatened Species Recovery Team, assisted by the Threatened Species Network, and supported by the Natural Heritage Trust, and Australian Government department.

In this way, different people and organisations who share a common concern about the threat to the survival of the bilby, and other native wildlife, are joining together to work for the common good.

Where can I see a bilby?

Finding a bilby in its natural habitat is almost impossible. Desert travellers may be able to locate the burrows and diggings of these secretive animals, but the animals themselves are masters of flight and camoflage and are unlikely to be seen. You can see bilbies in various zoos around Australia.

Better still, you can see biblies at Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park on Sydney's northern outskirts where they are housed in natural surroundings but where at least one (if not more) usually choose to sleep during the day in a specially designed 'night' area behind a glass viewing window. Or you have a "Wild Night Out" at Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park where the rangers willintroduce you to the bilbiesafter dark, when they are naturallymost active.

How are Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park andBilly Bilby™ working to save the bilby?

A full-scale breeding program has been commenced by the team of Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park in 2010. This program is being carried out in cooperation between Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park andbilby conservation in South Australia. Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park's aim is "Conservation through Education" andis now partnering withBilby and Friends Enterprises to take this message further, leveraging the work done by the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge Department, encouraging school-aged children to "Read for Life, Read for Wildlife".

Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park is partnering with Billy Bilby™ to take the message of the plight of the bilby to all of Australia and beyond. You can read about the adventures ofBilly Bilby™in the book series, and you can visit a real live bilby at Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park where the latest work is being donein breeding bilibies in a feral-freenatural but controlled environment.

eastern-grey-kangaroo

Wallaroo ~ Macropus robustus

Other common names for this macropod are Common Wallaroo, Hill Wallaroo and the Euro.

Wallaroos are found across most of Australia.

Although physically more like kangaroos, wallaroos' genetic make-up is closer to that of some wallabies and can cross-breed with some wallaby species. Despite this sharing of traits with kangaroos and wallabies, the wallaroo is not a hybrid kangaroo-wallaby cross, althought it probably appeared that way to the person who first named it a "wallaroo".

Wallaroos are found in many different kinds of habitat. They like steep rocky places with lots of shelter from Australia's extreme temperatures. They also like to shelter in thick bush near billabongs. Their diet is mainly grasses and shrubs.

At Walkabout Park you will meet one very special wallaroo named Tegan. Tegan was rescued from the pouch when her mother was killed by a hunter. Tegan is a female wallaroo that has been raised carefully paying attention to maintaining their natural behaviours and discouraging them from expecting food from people. She is therefore placid and relaxed around people.

Wallaroos are large strong animals. The males are more inclined to show aggressive traits. Because of their size and behaviour, it is not considered safe for male wallaroos to interact with people. Because at Walkabout Park visitors go into the animal's world where the wildlife is free to roam through the sanctuary, Walkabout Park does not have any male wallaroos.

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