Marsupials!

Category: Ships Log
   

January 4th

Checking out some Australian wildlife that we have not been able to find in the city.

 

We’ve been in Australia over a month now, and have yet to see a single kangaroo, wallaby or koala (okay, we know koalas are hard to see in the wild, but kangaroos shouldn’t be). Whenever we pass grassy or forested areas we always search for kangaroos, but they never appear. The only marsupial we’ve seen in the wild so far is a possum that was walking across a power line at night. Living in the city it’s hard to see wildlife that prefers wide open spaces and it’s easy to forget we are living on a continent with wildlife that is like nothing else on the planet. On Chris’s last day before returning to work, we decided enough was enough and if we couldn’t see marsupials in the wilds of the city, we were just going to have to cheat. On the outskirts of Brisbane is the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. This is a large wildlife sanctuary that houses wildlife from both Australia and Tasmania, and lucky for us, is frequented by a city bus.

 

We arrived about 10am Sunday morning, and ended up spending the entire day. Never having been to Australia before, the marsupials (mammals where young develop in a pouch) and monotremes (egg laying mammals) were pretty cool to see and learn about. It was our first time seeing duckbill platypuses, echidnas, wombats and Tasmanian devils. Platypuses and echidnas (look like hedgehogs with a long snout) are the only surviving monotremes left; platypuses can only be found in eastern Asutralia or Tasmania, and echidnas are only in Australia and New Guinea. The platypuses were smaller than I imagined, and super quick. Unfortunately they were also kept in a darkened pond so that combined with their nonstop swimming left us with nothing but blurry pictures. And the echidnas were asleep in their burrow, so we couldn't get a good picture of them either. But we did pretty good with the rest of the animals!

 

koala 9

A sleeping wombat and a lizard (see upper right) trying to get in to his enclosure. The wombats are nocturnal and dig burrows underground in which they live. I was expecting them to be the size of a mole, but they are much larger. They also have the cool adaptation that their pouch faces backward so their young don't get a faceful of dirt when mom is digging. Fun fact: a group of wombats is called a "wisdom."

 

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A Tasmanian devil excited about his lunch. These guys are only found in Tasmania now, and are famous for their loud screeching. It is also the largest carnivorous marsupial and apparently has one of the strongest bites proportional to its body weight of any land mammal.

 

There were also talks on many of the animals, and even a sheep dog and sheep shearing demonstration.  The best part of the sanctuary, though, was the kangaroo area. They have a large field you can walk through, and kangaroos, wallabies and emus wander freely around. They are all incredibly tame (they sell kangaroo food so you can feed them) and the kangaroos will hop right up to you, or ignore you if you come up to them. We even got to see a mom kangaroo with a joey in her pouch. However, this joey seemed to prefer riding with his legs sticking out instead of his head (it might have been feeding). Anyway, the rest of the blog is in the captions of the picture montage below:

 

koala 1

Sheep dog demonstration. The collie, "Hunter," was pretty impressive at herding sheep through an obstacle course.

 

koala 2

Sheep shearing. This is not a job I would want, although the sheep was amazingly docile throughout the procedure.

 

koala 3

The kangaroo field where you can walk freely among the roos.

 

koala 4

Relaxing in the grass with the kangaroos.

 

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A mom with a joey in her pouch (see the legs sticking out). I always thought a joey only referred to a young kangaroo, but I learned the term "joey" is actually used for all young marsupials who still live in their mom's pouch.

 

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A kangaroo enjoying a midmorning nap after being stuffed full of kangaroo pellets.

 

koala 7

One last kangaroo pic. These guys were just too much fun!

 

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This is a wallaby, which is very similar to a kangaroo but smaller and with a thinner tail.

 

koala 8

Emus were also wandering about. This is the largest bird in Australia and the 2nd largest bird in the world by height (after the ostrich). Take a look at those muscular legs; although they can't fly, they can run up to 30 mph (50 kmh)!

 

koala 11

We also caught the birds of prey show. This is a barking owl, which is also sometimes called a hawk-owl. It does look like a cross between a hawk and an owl! Their call is supposed to closely resemble that of a small dog's bark.

 

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A white-bellied sea eagle. They actually found this guy along the Brisbane River with his foot damaged from being wound tightly in a fishing line.

 

koala 14

Flocks of rainbow lorikeets are all over the place in Brisbane parks. The sanctuary was smart and set up a time to feed the wild lorikeets so the tourists could see them en masse. Here is one tourist enjoying feeding them.

 

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A close-up since the lorikeets were so obliging. They are gorgeous birds (though very noisy) and it's amazing to see them in the wild everywhere.

 

koala 13

These are flying foxes, aka incredibly huge bats (this genus consists of the largest bats in the world). We see these all the time around our marina, just after dusk. Their wing span is about 3-4 ft across (over 1 m)! It was a shock to us when we first arrived to see such huge bats flying overhead, being used to the much smaller Northern hemisphere variety.

 

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And of course, since it is the koala sanctuary, there were tons of koalas all over the place. Most were sleeping since that is what they do for about 20 hours a day (they eat with the remaining 4 hours).  Eucalyptus leaves don't provide much energy which is why they need to sleep so much.

 

koala 17

It's pretty impressive how they can sleep in pretty much any position or location on a tree.

 

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Here's a female (males have brown colored fur on their chest from scent glands, while females have white fur) that just woke up.

 

After our day at the sanctuary, we’re starting to feel like we really are in Australia instead of a city that could be in any English speaking country. Hopefully in the next couple months we'll be able to get a car so we can start seeing some of this wildlife in the wild!

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments  

0 #1 joe welsh 2015-01-27 20:37
Hello Alena, sounds like you two have landed well. I've been checking your boat log occasionally - what an awesome life - experience you've pulled off!
E mail me back if you have some time to chat about the old rockfish stuff - I've got a few questions to shoot back at you.
Joe
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