In Australia we have many unique native animals. Some are very famous, such as koalas and kangaroos, while others may not be familiar to visitors.
The fauna of Australia is incredibly unique, and often a bucket list item for visitors. You can get up close and personal with many of them in our zoos and wildlife parks or, if you’re lucky, you might just spot them in their natural habitat.
Many of our native animals are only found here. We are one of the few continents to have all three groups of mammals – monotremes, marsupials and placentals – and are home to more than 800 species of birds, including the iconic emu. We’ve got two crocodile species, 4,000 fish species and 50 types of marine mammals. Discovering Australia’s animals is one of the highlights for many visitors to our country.
Australia’s mammalian wildlife is unique from the rest of the world. The dingo, or wild dog, is our largest carnivorous mammal, while the numbat, quoll and Tasmanian devil are each generally the size of an average house cat.
Dingoes can be found all around Australia, except for Tasmania, and the best places to spot them include Queensland’s Fraser Island, the Kimberley in Western Australia and across the deserts of the Northern Territory and South Australia.
Numbats are found only in Western Australia and the Tasmanian devil can only be seen in wildlife parks or in the Tasmanian wilderness.
Endangered quolls are difficult to spot in the wild, but inhabit the wet forests of southeastern Australia and Tasmania, and a small area of northern Queensland. The bilby can be seen in Francois Peron National Park in Western Australia.
Australia has more than 140 species of marsupials, including kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, and wombats. Our 55 different native species of kangaroos and wallabies vary greatly in size and weight, ranging from half a kilogram (1 pound) to 90 (198.4 pounds) kilograms.
Come face to face with kangaroos and wallabies in Namadgi and Kosciuszko National Parks in the Australian Alps, Pebbly Beach in New South Wales and Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park.
Despite popular belief, our native koala is not a bear. Spot koalas at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve near Canberra, Port Stephens in New South Wales and the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Queensland.
The wombat is another creature you’ll find here – a stout, burrowing animal that can weigh up to 36 kilograms (79.4 pounds). Some of the best places to see them in the wild are the Blue Mountains National Park in New South Wales, Wilsons Promontory in Victoria and Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park in Tasmania.
Echidna, Kangaroo Island, South Australia © South Australian Tourism Commission
Another animal group found only in Australia is the monotremes, or egg-laying mammals. The most distinctive is the platypus, a river-dwelling animal with a bill like a duck, a furry waterproof body and webbed feet. Platypuses live in burrows, which they dig into the banks of rivers. They are difficult to spot, but your best chance to see them is in small streams and calm rivers along the east coast, such as the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve near Canberra, Lake Elizabeth in Victoria’s Great Otway National Park and in northern New South Wales and Queensland.
The echidna, otherwise known as the spiny anteater, is another of Australia’s monotremes. It has a prickly coat like a hedgehog or porcupine – so don’t try to pick one up! Kangaroo Island is one of the best places to spot them in the wild.
There are more than 800 species of birds in Australia, and about half cannot be found anywhere else. They range from tiny honeyeaters to the large, flightless emu, which stands nearly two metres (6.6 feet) tall. See cassowaries in our tropical rainforest, kookaburras in our open woodlands and emus in sclerophyll forests and savanna woodlands. Get up close to penguins on Kangaroo Island in South Australia and Philip Island in Victoria, or hear the winter call of the lyrebirds in Wollumbin National Park and in the Gondwana Rainforests in southeast Queensland.
There are 55 species of parrots in Australia, including a spectacular variety of cockatoos, rosellas, lorikeets, cockatiels, parakeets and budgerigars, which are seen in rural and urban areas.
Australia has more venomous snakes than any other continent, 21 of the world’s 25 deadliest in fact. But not all are poisonous, and we also have some stunning pythons and tree snakes. We are famous for our crocodiles, and host two different species, the freshwater crocodile, which is found nowhere else in the world, and the estuarine crocodile (also known as the saltwater crocodile). The Kimberley, Kakadu National Park and Cape York Peninsula are excellent places to see crocodiles in their natural habitat.
Of the seven species of marine turtles in the world, six can be found here including the flatback turtle, green turtle, hawksbill turtle, leatherback turtle, loggerhead turtle and olive ridley turtle. The best spots to see turtles are Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia and Eco Beach in Broome.
We also have an amazing array of lizards, ‘dragons’ and goannas (monitor lizards), such as the spectacular frilled-neck lizard and bearded dragon. Thorny devils can be found in Western Australia’s desert habitats, Shark Bay, Carnarvon and Exmouth.
Australian marine environments support around 4,000 of the world’s 22,000 types of fish, as well as 30 of the world’s 58 seagrass species. We also have the world’s largest coral reef system, the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, where there are countless species of colourful fish, including the beautiful clownfish seen in Finding Dory. We also have around 1,700 different species of coral.
Larger marine species include the humpback, southern right and orca whales, the dugong (or manatee), several dolphin species and a number of different sharks. Catch a glimpse of the whales during their migration along the east coast from May to November, or swim with gentle whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.
Kangaroo Island is one of the best places to see beautiful Australian fur seals in the wild.