Strange creatures

Strange creatures

Tasmanian devil

The Tasmanian Devil is the largest carnivorous (eats meat) marsupial (a

mammal that has its babies in a pouch) in Australia. Tasmanian Devils are a

nocturnal (active at night) animal. lives alone and prefers its own company

hence it is a relatively shy animal


The Tasmanian Devil is usually black with a white “collar” or patch around

its neck. It is the size of a small terrier dog very solid and “stout” and

weighs in between 6 and 8 kgs It has a tail of between 9 to 12″ long.

Tasmanian Devils have an extremely

large powerful head with a wide jaw with sharp teeth pointy pink ears (that

turn red when angry due to increased blood flow) and piercing dark eyes

Its dark colouring helps it to move around unseen at night time (feeding



The Tasmanian Devil is now only found on the island state of Tasmania and

lives in coastal scrub and eucalypt forests. It is a scavenger so Tasmanian

Devils are also found near human settlements

They spend the daytime out off sight sleeping in dens lined with grass and

leaves made in hollow logs, or old wombat burrows or small natural caves

They can conserve energy by going into a state of “Tupor” where its body

heat drops to match its surroundings

See my Py

ygmy Possum page for more about Torpor


Tasmanian Devils by nature are not aggressive until it comes to food. Then

they are protective of its find and / or kill even to the extent of killing

another Devil that wanted its catch. These fights result in many a

Tasmanian Devil having bald patches of missing fur and appearing battle-



Tasmanian Devils prefer to eat carrion, that is dead animals. They will eat

anything lying around no matter how old and rotten, and their powerful jaws

will help them crush bones so they can devour the whole carcass, meat, fur

and bone, leaving nothing to pollute the environment. They can though kill

their own prey such as snakes, birds, rodents,lizards, and small wallabies

and lamb. it prefers to prey on animals smaller thhan itself It kills by

inflicting a powerful bight onto the back of the neck or back of its victim

It also needs to drinks water.


Tasmanian Devils are very loud especially when there are a number of them

at the one carcass, trying to scare each other off. They have a range of

sound, from barks to snorts to growling to screaming !. This screaming and

their fierce looks gave birth to their “Devil” name


Breeding occurs at the males den which the female visits for a pe

eriod of 2

weeks or so. Tasmanian Devil babies (Joeys) are born blind and deaf and

little more than a grain of rice in size.

Up to 50 are born, who then race (distance of 3 inches) from the birth

canal to the mothers backward facing pouch (So dirt doesn’t enter when she

is digging) to attach themselves to only one of four teats available !

Once sucking commences the nipple swells to form an air tight connection to

the joey. They remain attached to the nipple for around 3 months Once they

leave the pouch they are firstly left in the nest whilst their mother goes

for food, and then progress to going out closely accompanied by their

mother After 6 months from birth the joey becomes independent of the mother

A lot of joeys and juveniles do not make it to adulthood, due mainly to

being attacked by adult Tasmanian Devils If hey do survive their growing

year Tasmanian Devils have a lifespan of around 8 years


The Tasmanian Devil used to be found all over Australia. It is believed the

Dingo (Australian Wild Dog) was a major reason for the decline of the

Tasmanian Devil on the mainland by competing for the same food source.

But because the Dingo did not make it over Bass strait to th

he Island of

Tasmania (a State of Australia) the Devil survived. The Tasmanian Devils

numbers were very low due to them being killed by both settlers (who

thought the Devil was responsible for major stock losses) and bounty

hunters (who were paid by the government by the number of Devils they

killed). The Tasmanian Tiger was also a predator of the Tasmanian devil.

Now with the Tiger extinct, and protection from the government, as well as

being appreciated by farmers (due to the Devil eating crop eating rodents &

cleaning up carrion) their numbers have stablised, and are now on the



Tasmanian Devils are often hit by cars as they feed on road killed animals,

and they are losing parts of their habitat due to mans increasing use of

their environment Accidents and disease also account for some losses, and

as already mentioned many juvenile devils are attacked by adult Devils


The Platypus is an extremely different Mammal found in Eastern Australia


The shy Platypus is found only in eastern Australia, where they live on the

edges of rivers and freshwater lakes where burrows can be dug.

The best streams are ones where the banks are strong enough for building

their deep burrows, and often these banks overhang the river. During the

day, a Platypus often re

ests in this burrow, but it may spend some hours

near the entrance to the burrow, basking in the sun and grooming its dense

fur. But Platypuses (or platypi) are most active for several hours after

dusk and before dawn.

Platypuses are renound for their excellence in the water as both a diver

and swimmer


Whilst underwater the Platypus has its eyes and ears shut and, being

buoyant, it must continuously swim downwards with its webbed forefeet to

remain submerged. Webbing on the front feet extends well beyond the claws,

forming large paddles for swimming. The hindfeet of the Platypus are also

webbed but are employed in steering or braking – not in propulsion.,

platypuses can swim underwater for two minutes, but may ‘rest’ underneath a

submerged object for up to 10 minutes. Dense fur fibres trap a layer of air

next to the skin, giving excellent insulation for an animal that spends up

to 12 hours each day in water as cold as 0 degrees Celsius.


The Platypus has a bill that resembles a duck’s bill but is actually an

elongated snout covered with soft, moist, leathery skin and sensitive nerve

endings. The body of the platypus is 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 in) long; the

flattened tail measures 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 in) in length. The feet are

webbed. The body and tail are covered with a thick, soft, woolly layer of

fur, from which long, flat hairs protrude. The platypus has three layers of

fur: 1. an inside layer to trap air and keep the animal warm 2. a middle

layer which works like a wet suit 3. an outer layer to feel if it is close

to objects A Platypus grows to a maximum weight of 1 to 2.4 kg (2.2 to 5.3

lb). The Platypus is known to live for at least 12 years in the wild


The male Platypus has a sharp, hollow, horny spur about 15 millimetres long

on the inside of both hind leg ankles. This is connected to a venom gland

which produces a very strong toxin. The spur can be used in defence against

predators (the venom can cause excruciating pain in humans and is strong

enough to kill a dog.) but the fact that it is restricted to the male – and

that the gland reaches its greatest development in the mating season –

suggests that it is normally employed in aggressive encounters between



The Platypus usally feeds at night on aquatic insect larvae, shrimps and

worms by dabbling in mud or silt on the bottom of rivers and freshwater

lakes with its sensitive, flexible, duck-like snout, aided by .

electroreceptors (electronic sense) on its bill These are stored in the

cheek pouches and will be chewed after returning to the surface. The

Platypus can eat their own body weight in food in one night.


Monotremes are a sub family of Mammals and there are only 2 animals that

belong to this sub family Platypus and Echidnas. monotremes lay eggs rather

than giving birth to their young.


Platypus males are larger than females. Mating occurs once a year,

beginning in late June in the warmer northern parts and in October in the

southern part. The female usually lays two eggs ( the soft leathery egg

resembles a reptiles egg) but may lay up to four and incubates these

against her abdomen

(by clasping them with its tail)for about two weeks in a blocked-off nest

at the end of a long breeding burrow. The young “puggle” have no fur when

they hatch. The female has no teats. Milk is produced in large glands under

her skin which oozes out onto a patch of fur and the young Platypus

(puggle) sucks it up.


The biggest threat to the Platypus is the loss of Habitat, as man clears

land and pollutes the waterways.

Natural enemies of the platypus includes, snakes, water rats, goannas, and

foxes (that were introduced).

Taronga Zoo in Sydney and the Healesville Sancturary in Victoria have

succesfully bred platypuses in captivity.


Koalas are found in South Eastern Australia and has been described as an

“ash coloured pouched bear”. But they are not a bear they are a mammal (

meaning they feed their young on Milk) and are a Marsupial (meaning they

carry their developing young mostly in a pouch) The name koala, comes from

the Aboriginal saying that means “no drink”. The Koala obtains enough

moisture from the eucalypt leaves that it lives on


Because of the reliance on its one food source Koalas are found where there

are suitable Eucalypt forests (Gum trees) and woodlands which is along

Australia’s East coast and inland of the mountain range known as the “Great

Dividing Range” (see map)


The Koala prefers to move around neither in daylight or night, but rather

just after sunset.

Usually daytimes are spent asleep in the fork of a tree, as 80% of its time

is spent sleeping For a couple of hours after sunset it will move around

quiet a bit feeding and can often be heard “barking” aggressively at other


It does though at times feed at night and during the day. Koalas are

solitary animals having its own specific home range.


“A picture paints a thousand words” Koalas are usually ash grey with a

white chest and the males are larger than females Thick fur, fluffy ears

and a broad flat nose give them their “cuddly” appearance They have strong

limbs and large hands to help with climbing trees. Surprisingly they have a

short stumpy tail which is of no assistance to them in climbing at all.

There are 2 sub Species (South & North)with the Southern Koalas up to 1/3

larger than the northern variety


As already mentioned the koala survives almost exclusively on Eucalypt

leaves Not just any type of Eucalypt as their choice changes with seasons,

local conditions and personal preferences. It is thought there is about 12

species of Eucalypt leaves that a koala can feed on Eucalypt foliage though

high in fiber is very “bitter” and contains many toxins harmful to most

lifeforms Koalas have a longer caecum (part of the intestine) which allows

more time for bacteria to break down the otherwise indigestible eucalypti



Mating occurs normally between October and February (Summer) The baby Joey

is born five weeks after conception, blind, hairless and less than an inch

long. It then crawls into its mothers pouch and drinks from one of the 2

teats there The next 6 months the baby stays in the pouch drinking milk The

next period before being weaned at around the age of 1 their dietary needs

are supplemented by eating some of the mother’s faeces (droppings) that

supplements the bacteria in its own caecum (part of the intestine) (see

paragraph on FEEDING)to aid the baby’s own digestion of Eucalypt leaves


Like most wild animals destruction of habitat is a major threat Predators

such as feral dogs and dingoes are also a problem, as is traffic on our

nations highways Some “mainland” koala colonies have declined due to a

disease called chlamydiosis

Australian Pelican

The Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) is found all around

Australia and is the biggest of the 8 species of Pelicans found worldwide.


Pelicans as a whole are big birds with a very large wingspan, large beaks

and are very well known One of the reason such a big bird can fly is that

its skeleton is very light (10% of their weight).

Australian Pelicans are white in colour with black wingtips and black

markings on their tail. Behind their head and part way down their neck

there is a “streak” of grey Their bill and very large bill pouch are pink

and is the longest beak/bill of any, of all the types of Pelicans in the

world , whilst their legs and feet are blue-grey in colour.

They are so buoyant they cannot sink under water, though unlike most water

birds they do not have a lot of water proof oil on their feathers etc so

they can get wet and cold

Vital Statistics

Wingspan 2.5 meters to 3.4 meters.

Length 1.6 to 1.9meters.

Weight 4 to 6.8 kg up to 8.2 kg.

Australian Pelicans eyes are brown and white.

The female is slightly smaller than the male.

Pouched bill 40 to 47cm and can hold 9 to 13 litres of water.

They have 4 webbed toes.

There vocalisation is a chesty rumbling or deep growling.

In the wild they can live between 10 and 25 years.


On a world scale The Australian Pelican is found throughout Australia,

except in the very dry middle (desert region), Papua New Guinea and parts

of Indonesia (eg Sulawesi) and sometimes in New Zealand and some Pacific

Islands close to Australia

In Australia itself, wherever there is water you can possibly find

Pelicans, ranging from wetlands to swamps, rivers, estuaries, lakes (fresh

and salt), coastlines, mudflats, lagoons etc. They live in large flocks or

colonies and will travel large distances to find suitable water, breeding

grounds etc


Pelicans favourite food is fish.

They normally fish together “herding” the fish into a central position, and

then plunge their bills into the water and capture a fish with a mouthful

of water then “squeeze” the water out by pushing their bill against their

chest region so they are left with just the fish in their bill pouch.

They will then turn the fish around in their bill pouch so it goes

“longways” down their throat and then they swallow the fish whole with a

“jerk” of their head.

There bills have a slight hook on the end and are serrated to help hold

onto slippery fish.

They will feed from Humans, either stealing from fisherman or accepting

handouts, and have been know to also eat small turtles, tadpoles, shrimp

and other crustaceans


It is fantastic to see a Pelican take off, running across the water to

build up speed and flapping its huge wings. Once in the air this big bird

relies on thermals and soars to great heights and for long distances. When

it lands it is like an amphibious aeroplane landing on a watery runway,

finally gilding to a stop with the help of its wings spread out acting like

brakes It has been reported that Australian pelicans have soared to a

height of 3,000 meters (3 Kms) and when flying in a flock often form a

rough V formation


Pelicans breed together in large colonies, at any time of the year

depending on conditions like rainfall A complex courting dance by males

competing for females occur, with the winning male and his female going off

to their nest site. The nest usually a grass, twig and feather lined scrape

in the ground is prepared by the female 1 to 3 eggs are then laid in the

next week. Both parents help out sitting on the nest, with the eggs

hatching after 32 to 37 days. The young are born naked and blind At first

they are feed regurgitated food obtained by thrusting their bills down the

parent’s gullet. After a month or so the young chick can leave the nest and

join a “creche” of other young pelicans where they are cared for the next

couple of months, until they learn to fly and become independent


The biggest problems for Pelicans is man and his fishing hooks, and lines,

as their pouches can be easily torn by sharp fishing hooks

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