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Kangaroos are perhaps the most recognizable of all the animals unique to Australia. They can be as small as a rat, or grow to the height of a human man. They can sustain speeds of up to 55 miles per hour for short periods and can jump up to 29 feet in a single bound. They live in groups called a "mob," with one dominant male having free reign among many females. The small joey, or baby, is about the size of a jelly bean when born and must find its own way to its mother's pouch. Once secure inside, the joey will live there and feed for as many as nine months - and under adverse conditions even longer. A female kangaroo can even slow down the rate of maturation during, e.g., periods of drought. Roos can be found wherever there is a billabong, or oasis, though they can range through the bush and the grasslands too. We saw two mobs, one quite large, in two different areas of a game preserve about 40 miles west of Melbourne. These are Grey Kangaroos who prefer the eastern and southern coastal areas.



Koalas are also a familiar emblem of Australia. The Koalas are marsupials, like kangaroos. They are emphatically not bears! In southern Australia, they grow to weigh 15 to 20 pounds, larger than their northern cousins. They do not retain any body fat. They have very thick fur which cushions them, and they spend most of their time sleeping. We found these koalas - four different animals - perched high in their native eucalyptus trees. They seemed neither much disturbed or interested in their human visitors. These shots were taken with a telescopic lens, which afforded rather good, close photos. Like the roos, koala babies are called joeys and are about the same size when born. They, too, must find their own way to their mother's pouch. They are born after only 36 days, and mature in 6 months. Though joeys will hitch a ride on the mother's back until they reach about a year of age. Remarkably, koalas get their fluids from the approximately 120 species of eucalyptus trees (out of some 600) that they feed on.



Emus are fascinating, and easily fascinated, birds. They often travel in pairs, as we witnessed near a billabong. They can grow to 6 feet in height and weigh upwards of 90 pounds They cannot fly because their wings are too small. But they can run quite fast. When we came upon a small grouping of emus, we were instructed to do so quietly and by walking through the bush. The first picture was taken through the trees when the pair was not yet aware of our presence. If they are not surprised or rushed, they are quite tolerant of strangers in their territory. And in fact if humans bend over and walk in a strange way, or affect some other "strange" - non-threatening - behavior, the emus will more than likely come to see who is paying them a visit. They are very curious! They eat fruits and seeds, insects and even small animals. One strange aspect of their lives is that the female will bear 5 to 15 eggs in a very large nest. But the male will then take over and care for the eggs until they hatch, and then raise the young on their own. Male emus get very aggressive toward other emus when tending to the next generation, even toward their "mates." In fact, however, females will mate with many males and seems not to care for the task of child-rearing.



Wallabies are a smaller version of kangaroos. Because of their size, they are more vulnerable to attack by foxes and wild dogs. These wallabies were in a special enclosure to insure their safety while the young are being raised.



Kookaburras are known for their distinctive look and their song. They mate for life, unlike the emus, and both males and females share the duties of incubating and raising the young. They also return to the same nest, which is usually in hollows in trees. These birds were photographed in an aviary. The third picture is of a strange bird known as the tawny frogmouth. This is a nocturnal bird who is accustomed to sleeping out in the open during the day. Its primary defense against predators is is ability to blend in with the woods it inhabits. In fact, the frogmouth looks like a branch on a tree. When we saw this animal for the first time, we in fact thought it was just that - a stump on a log! It never moved and blended perfectly with its surroundings.



The Tasmanian devil is as bad-tempered as its reputation would have it. While photographing these devils, two got into a pitched battle and made piercing, high-pitched screams. This habit of blood-curdling screams is what led Europeans to call them devils! Fossils of devils have been found on mainland Australia, but it is believed that they were driven to extinction on the mainland by dings brought to the continent by Aboriginal peoples some 600 or more years ago. Today they live only in Tasmania. They can live just about anywhere on the island they can find shelter and food. The latter is fairly simple since they are scavengers and eat just about anything. Devils are the largest of the carnivorous marsupials. Devils mate in March and the young are born in April - after just 21 days! The average mother has 2 or three babies and they leave the pouch after about four months. They are weaned usually by 6 months of age. The devils are not particularly aggressive unless threatened. Their fierce look and sounds are usually intended to frighten any would be predator. They can be very defensive during the mating season or when feeding upon a hard won meal.


Wombats live in burrows, grow quite large and prefer rainforests. They can grow to a length of nearly 4 feet, and weigh as much as 80 pounds! They have very strong legs and sharp claws for digging. Wombats wander their territory at night and may range as far as two miles. They eat grass, shrubs, and roots. They have been known to live for as many as 27 years. Mating takes place between September and December. A female will usually bear on baby each year. As with the roos and koalas, the baby is born very small and finds its way to its mother's pouch. But the pouch is "backward" - unlike the others - and this protects the pouch when the wombat digs. The baby wombat matures between seven and ten months.


Pademelons are, again, a species of wallaby. They are quite small. They prefer to live in wet areas such as rainforests. Tasmanian pademelons have very fine fur. They live on grasses and shrubs. These pleasant little creatures are not, thankfully, endangered.



And then there was this really big snake we found in Tasmania! Well, actually, Diane found it. And she got up close and personal with it, assisted by preserve keepers. We believe it was a python. Thankfully, it was a friendly python and did not feel to the need to feed!