Australia’s Home Trotter: The World’s Happiest Marsupial (and Friends)

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Now when I mention ‘Australian animals’ you’re probably thinking of the most horrific, most deadly animals that we, in Australia, are so lucky to call our own. Spiders, snakes, crocodiles and sharks will probably come to your mind. If not, then you’re thinking about the Aussie icons, the koala, the kangaroo, maybe the emu. But I can wager a guess that most people outside of Australia haven’t heard of some of our cutest critters. So that’s what you’re to read about today: Australia’s cutest animals that you probably haven’t heard of, including the world’s happiest marsupial. After everything that’s happening in the world currently, I feel like we could all do with a moment filled with fluffy cuteness (well, I could, anyway). So, read away and discover more about some of Australia’s most adorable furry friends…

The Quokka

Ah, the quokka. The world’s happiest (and quite possibly cutest) marsupial. These little guys are the epitome of happiness. They’re some of the friendliest, non-threatening Australian animals, with many wild quokkas happy to munch on their lunch surrounded by humans. They’re so friendly, they’ll even take a selfie with you. Yep. You read that right. Wild animals who will take selfies with you. If you don’t believe me, feast your eyes on these adorable pictures (and no, these haven’t been photoshopped).

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Quokkas are a small type of wallaby (imagine a sort of small kangaroo), with greyish brown fur with lighter brown under surfaces. The quokka has a brown face, short rounded ears (which are adorable), black eyes and a black nose. Its feet, paws and short tail are brown. They’re generally found in Limestone heath, woodland, wetlands, and settlement, and in large numbers on Rottnest Island. The animal is the primary source of tourism to the island, with approximately 10,000 to 12,000 animals calling the island home. Quokkas hop along the ground and are, occasionally, known to climb trees as well. If the thought of these ridiculously cute marsupials hopping along the ground or scaling a tree (that’s probably more than ten times its size) with their adorable small paws and feet, doesn’t fill you with joy, I don’t know what will.

And, look, while I don’t suggest, recommend, or condone going out in the bush and looking for a quokka you can take a selfie with (as these animals are wild and shouldn’t really be interacting with humans in this way), they are very, very cute.

 

The Quoll

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While I’m speaking generally here, there are actually four types of quoll found in Australia, these being the northern, spotted-tailed, eastern and western quolls – but if I were to explain them all individually we’d be here all week. So, for now, we’ll just stick to the generic ‘quoll’.

Quolls are (mostly) carnivorous marsupials with a pointed snout, a long tail and brown to black fur spotted with white. Quolls are active creatures with bright eyes, an adorable pink nose (that begs to be ‘booped’) and many sharp teeth (that prevent you from ‘booping’ the nose). Depending on their species and size, quolls are known to eat reptiles and mammals, such as bandicoots, possums, echidnas and rabbits, insects, birds, frogs, lizards, snakes, and fruit.

Despite their dangerous(ly cute) appearance, three quoll species are an endangered species and one is vulnerable in Australia, with all four species having declined radically in numbers as a result of habitat loss or change across Australia, and introduced predators such as foxes and cats. Quolls also have a short lifespan, which may also contribute to their endangered and vulnerable listings. Small quolls live for only about two years, and the larger spotted-tailed quoll only lives for about four to five years. So, once you see a quoll, you probably won’t ever see it again. Sad, but the harsh truth, so enjoy its company while you can.

Similarly to the quokka, I wouldn’t recommend you go taking selfies with these cute little fluffs, mainly because they would most likely attack you and, with teeth like theirs, you’re more than likely going to be left with a nasty bite and some scrapes. So, just don’t do it and stick to taking pictures from afar.

 

The Bilby

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The bilby is possibly one of my favourite of all Australian animals and has been one of my favourites for as long as I can remember. There are two species of bilbies found in Australia, the greater bilby and the lesser bilby. However, due to the belief of the extinction of the lesser bilby in the early 1950s, the greater bilby is the only remaining bilby found in the world. Bilbies used to be found across 70% of Australia. However, now they can only be found in the Tanami Desert of the Northern Territory, the Gibson, Little and Great Sandy Deserts, the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of Western Australia, and the Mitchell Grasslands of southwest Queensland; this accounts for only 15% of Australia’s landmass. This dramatic decline (and continued decline) in bilby numbers has resulted in the species to be labelled as vulnerable, with a population of less than 10,000.

This adorable marsupial has large, long, pinkish coloured ears that are almost hairless. These provide the bilby with great hearing and are believed to help keep the Bilby cool, which helps when you live in a desert. The bilby has incredibly soft, blue-grey fur, with a white belly, and a white-tipped black tail. Clearly, with a face like theirs, it’s easy to see why these soft, fluffy babies have become so beloved by the Australian people. So much so, in fact, Australia has adopted the bilby as the Easter Bilby, instead of the Easter Bunny (though we do talk about both). We love the Easter Bilby so much, we even Easter Bilby chocolate. I’m not kidding. Chocolate bilbies. They’re adorable.

So it’s safe to say that the bilby is easily one of Australia’s most loved, and most adorable animals, and I mean, with a face like that, it’s easy to believe. (They’re just so cute!)

 

The Tree Kangaroo

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Now you’ve heard of the kangaroo… You know, the red (or grey) thing with big feet and a cute little head that hops around like it owns the place (and most likely does). Well, they have cousins. And they might be even cuter than they are. Meet the Tree Kangaroo. Yes, folks, a kangaroo, but in a tree. Imagine the cross of a kangaroo and a lemur. That’s a tree kangaroo. Also, I should probably mention, these guys aren’t only found in Australia like their overhyped (but still very cute) cousins. They can be found, not only in Australia, but also West Papua, and Papua New Guinea, with six of ten species being found in Papua New Guinea. So, while some Australians claim that they’re ours, they’re really only partly ours (just like Russell Crowe!). The two species native to Australia are Bennett’s tree kangaroo and Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo, with both species being found in the rainforests of Queensland.

 

These furry, squishable little creatures aren’t just a pretty cute, squishy face. They actually represent a group of macropods (animals that evolved into the kangaroos and wallabies of today) who, after coming down from tree to live on land, re-ascended into the safety of the trees to become the tree kangaroos that we know, and love, today. They’re a unique, one-of-a-kind animal and I think they’re positively one of the cutest things I’ve seen, over the internet that is. Due to the rarity of these incredible creatures, and their love of heights, they’re very difficult to spot, so difficult that you may not even see them with expert help. So, if you do happen to see one in person (and not just over the internet like me), count yourself lucky. You’re one of the few. Be sure to get photos of these huggable, little cuties (though it may be near impossible to get a selfie with one!)

While I know I’ve only introduced you to four of the many adorable cuties that Australia has to offer, I’ve already rambled enough about these lovable creatures. If you do happen to want to learn more about these animals (and perhaps raise awareness for those which are listed as vulnerable and endangered), you can visit the links below. I hope that these ridiculously cute fluffy babies brightened your day a little and brought some happier news than some of the other stories making headlines around the world at the moment. So remember, if you feel overwhelmed with all the negative, doom-and-gloom stories that are currently flooding the news, there is an adorably sweet and constantly-smiling fluff-ball somewhere in the world, or a fluffy, cuddly tree kangaroo just chilling in a tree. So be like that tree kangaroo and try to relax and focus on all the positive things in life!

 

Discover more about these animals or look at some other cuties in these links below:

https://www.experienceoz.com.au/en/australias-10-cutest-animals

https://www.buzzfeed.com/simoncrerar/cutest-australian-animals-ranked?utm_term=.jk3XKBRay#.be30B31yn

http://wildlife.rottnestisland.com/land/fauna/quokka

http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-quolls-australia

https://www.bushheritage.org.au/species/quolls

https://www.bushheritage.org.au/species/bilby

http://members.optusnet.com.au/bilbies/About_Bilbies.htm

https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/tree-kangaroo

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/wildlife/2013/02/tree-kangaroos-best-photos-ever-taken

 

Australia: Five Natural Wonders of South Australia

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Living in the suburbs of the city of Adelaide in South Australia, I’ve always felt like there weren’t that many eye-catching natural phenomenon around my home state. We don’t have a beautiful harbour (or a harbour bridge), nor do we have magnificent gorges. For all I knew, South Australia was basically a random mix of ordinary climates and landscapes.

Guess what? I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

After a trip to Mount Gambier for a music event, I remembered, and re-discovered, the beautiful sink-holes that litter the Mount Gambier area. This prompted me to search for other incredible landscapes and landmarks around South Australia and, lo and behold, I found many more incredible places that either I had forgotten about or hadn’t even heard of before.

So, I present to you the Five Natural Wonders of South Australia (that I have discovered thus far).

  1. The Umpherston Sinkhole

IMG_5533The Umpherston Sinkhole is actually the sink-hole that inspired this article in the first place. It was the first sink-hole I ever visited (about 4 years ago) and it left a lasting impression on me. It remains one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever visited, and I’ve made some treasured memories while I have visited. This special place is also one of the most aesthetically pleasing attraction I’ve visited, with the hole itself hosting a stunning, unbelievably green, garden of a variety of plant life, making it the perfect place for some stunning photo opportunities.

The Sunken Garden, as it’s also known, was naturally formed when the limestone roof of the underground chamber collapsed, forming the gaping cavity that can be seen today. The garden that now occupies the cavity was only appeared in 1886, when James Umpherston, the name-sake of the sink-hole, created the oasis that can be seen today. The lush ferns and hydrangeas, as well as a serene fountain, are just some of the reasons why this garden is so popular, though its popularity may also be a result of the (adorable) possums that also call this masterpiece of nature home.

If you haven’t visited this gorgeous place, I highly, highly, recommend it. However, if my words haven’t convinced you, then maybe my pictures will instead.

  2. The Remarkable Rocks

IMG_5535.jpgThe Remarkable Rocks are a group of granite rocks that, after 500 million years of erosion by wind, rain, and sea-spray, form a unique set of shapes and shadows, depending on the position of the sun. These lichen-stained rocks can be found on Kangaroo Island (which is also a beautiful place and is one of the most highly recommended places to see in South Australia). The orange lichen decorating the surface of the rocks also changes colour, from rust to gold, depending on the lighting.

Not only are the rocks themselves great photo opportunities, but they sit on a cliff overlooking the ocean, providing a beautiful ocean setting that the island itself is so well-known for.

The best time for viewing the rocks is said to be in the early morning (around sunrise) and in the evening (during sunset). This golden lighting provides one of the best for the viewing of the rocks, and, partnered with a serene sea, makes for a beautiful scene.

I myself have not the opportunity to visit these magnificent rocks, but people who have visited have highly recommended their visiting and, generally, thoroughly enjoyed themselves. If you’re ever visiting Kangaroo Island, give this rocks a visit, you won’t regret it.

3. The Blue Lake

IMG_5534.jpgThe Blue Lake is another masterpiece of Mother Nature that can be found in Mount Gambier. The Blue Lake, which occupies an extinct volcano crater, is one of the most incredible sights of Mount Gambier, with the site being renowned for the cobalt blue waters which can be seen between December and March (summer and early autumn months). While the cobalt blue waters, unfortunately, don’t last throughout the entire year, the lake still retains a remarkably pewter blue (which can be seen in the first image of mine) from April to November.

The reason for the magnificent colour change of the lake remains unknown, though there are many legends and stories that attempt to provide an explanation, with one legend (my personal favourite) speaking of bunyips (an Australian mythical beast) that live on the bottom of the lake coming to the surface for summer. This migration of the bunyips, is said to cause the colour of the lake. Some people say that the lake reflects the blue of the sky, and others (jokingly) say that vibrant blue is merely food dye. It’s more likely that this colour change is due to chemical reactions occurring between the water and rocks.

While I can’t confirm the existence of bunyips in general, I can say that the Blue Lake is a must visit if you’re ever spending time in South Australia.

4. Wilpena Pound

IMG_5536.jpgWilpena Pound (wilpena an Aboriginal word meaning bent fingers, describing the rock formation), a  large rock basin located in the heart of picturesque Flinders Rangers, home to the highest peak of the Rangers, St. Mary Peak. I successfully climbed the 1170 meter mountain on my year nine camp four years ago (when I was much fitter) and attempted to climb (but only got halfway due to failing light) once again with French Keeper, Camille, and a few other friends.

Wilpena Pound is, while quite harsh and very much belonging to the bush, one of the most famous areas in South Australia. It is a popular camping spot due to the attraction of St. Mary Peak, the Hill family homestead, ancient Indigenous artwork found at Arkaroo Rock, and the beautiful, sweeping lines of the mountain ranges.

This incredible feat of nature is definitely more than worth a look, and there are many accommodation options if you are keen for a visit. If you are heading over to stay, I would recommend staying for at least a few days (although don’t be surprised if you end up wishing you didn’t have to leave).

5. Lake Bumbunga

Lake Bumbunga-2.jpgHave you ever seen those extremely aesthetic pictures of people on Instagram sitting by a pink lake? You probably just thought, ‘Oh they’ve edited the lake to look pink, that’s cool’. Well would you believe me if I told you it wasn’t edited? One of the most popular pink lakes found in South Australia is the fairy floss (or candyfloss) pink lake of Lake Bumbunga.

The word ‘bumbunga’ is, reportedly, the word for ‘rain water lake’, for the Parnpangka people (indigenous community) of the area. The use of this word for the naming of the lake is a nod to the Indigenous people who lived on the land, as well as their rich history and culture.

The lake is located in Lochiel and is made up of three salt pans that have been harvested for over 30 years for a variety of uses. The colour of the water, despite being best known for being pink, has also been known to change to white as well as blue, this change being attributed to the salinity of the water which is known to fluctuate throughout the year.

The lake is also a short drive away from the Clare Valley, a famous wine region in South Australia.  So, if you’re a fan of wine and uniquely striking views, Lake Bumbunga is the place for you!

After writing this article, I’m honestly shocked that I ever thought that South Australia was the least picturesque state in Australia (seriously, look at this picture from the sink-hole!). While I’ve only provided five here in this article, I’m more than certain that there are more natural gems that are just as beautiful and awe-inspiring as the ones you’ve seen here.

If you’re ever able to visit any one of these places that I’ve listed, don’t hesitate. You won’t be disappointed.

 

// EDIT BY CAMILLE, Keeper of France // Two years ago, I spent two months in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, to study in Siobhan’s high school. My host sister Lucy and her wonderful family showed me around, and I was lucky enough to discover almost all the places Siobhan wrote about. This will probably remain one of the most astonishing road trips of my life… and a good proof that Australia is not only about koalas, kangaroos, Ayers Rock and dreadful animals 😛

 

Links:

https://theculturetrip.com/pacific/australia/articles/8-amazing-natural-wonders-to-see-in-south-australia/

http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2013/11/01/3881917.htm

http://www.traveller.com.au/wilpena-pound-south-australia-travel-guide-and-things-to-do-12mah1

http://austhrutime.com/wilpena_pound.htm

https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/ShowUserReviews-g499708-d1813068-r70573658-Arkaroo_Rock-Flinders_Ranges_National_Park_Flinders_Ranges_South_Australia.html

https://southaustralia.com/travel-blog/south-australias-pink-lake-bucket-list

https://www.kidsinadelaide.com.au/lake-bumbunga-pink-lake/

Credits: Siobhan Reardon (Keeper of Australia), Camille Ibos (Keeper of France), southaustralia.com

 

Australia: It’s Reconciliation Week!

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When I’m writing this, it is currently the 27th of May, a day which marks the beginning of Reconciliation Week (held from May 27 to June 3). In Australia, this week is dedicated to the growing of respectful relationships between our Indigenous peoples, being the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and Australians of other cultural heritage.

These two dates are very special and hold great meaning to Australians, marking the dates of significant events of Indigenous history in colonized Australia. The 1967 Referendum of May 27 gave the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and recognize them in the national census. On the 3rd of June, the Mabo Decision was legalized, which legally recognized that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a special relationship to the land. It paved the way for Native Title, and overturned the title of Terra Nullius (“nobody’s land”) given to Australia upon the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.

The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation held the first Reconciliation Week in 1996, and this year marks its 22nd edition. Week follows National Sorry Day, held on the 26th of May and that remembers and commemorates the mistreatment of the country’s Indigenous Peoples. All Australians are encouraged to take part in this week of forging new and lasting relationships, and take the time to get to know the rich and diverse culture and people who have treasured this land we call home for thousands of years.

Before I dive into Reconciliation Week and all its components, I think I should make clear for all of you reading this, and who are not familiar with our Indigenous Australians, a brief overview of the peoples to whom I’ll be referring to. Aboriginal Australians are those people indigenous to mainland Australia and the island of Tasmania, while Torres Strait Islander people are those belonging to the Torres Strait Islands of Queensland; this group of people are distinct from those of the Aboriginal tribes and so are referred to under a different name. Of course, these are very broad names for the many tribes that inhabited Australia, with over 500 different clan groups with different cultures, beliefs, and languages. Some of these have died out as a result of white settlers and so, it is for this reason (among others) that Reconciliation Week is such an important part of modern Australia and us Australians.

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Historically, the relationship between Indigenous Australians and Australian settlers is not one that is celebrated, with many wrongs being committed against those we call the First Australians. This week, however, is the week in which we take the steps to reconciliation, where, as a nation, we come together to respect and apologise to those to which Australia owes so much.

Reconciliation Australia, an independent, national not-for-profit organisation which initiates the week, says:

“We believe in fairness for everyone, that our diversity makes us richer, and that together, we are stronger…”

Reconciliation Australia also proposes a country in which:

  1. Australians value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous cultures, rights and experiences.
  2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have access to basic rights such as health and education.
  3. Political, business and community structures uphold equal opportunity for all Australians.
  4. Australian society recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and heritage as a part of the nation’s identity.

Coming from the perspective of a non-Indigenous Australian, I cannot quite comprehend the full meaning this week may have on the lives of Indigenous Australians – I believe no one but these Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can. However, as a person who has a great love for history and building new relationships, Reconciliation Week has always been a very important part of the way I view my country as well as my education and myself.

Growing up, children are taught in great depth about the history of Australia, both prior to white settlement and after, both the good and the bad. This education, the education I continue to expand upon, is one I am extremely grateful for as an individual who thoroughly enjoys history, and actively wants to play a part in forging new relationships across many diverse cultures; and in doing so, hopefully, help contribute to mending the rift between the First Australians and non-Indigenous Australians such as myself.

Reconciliation Week is celebrated in a wide array of ways, marches being quite popular for the people of many cities throughout Australia. My own year level organized a march for school at the beginning of the week to show our support of Indigenous peoples and their cultures. Social gatherings are a popular way of showing support, with breakfast and lunch gatherings a favorite of many. Sporting events hold games dedicated to respecting and supporting the various Indigenous cultures, many creating specific uniforms that pay homage to the art and culture of the First Australians. Services of remembrance and exhibitions are also relatively popular. Any way of demonstrating appreciation for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is valued and highly supported during this week (of course this is the same all year round, but a bit more so during this period of time).

Not only is Reconciliation Week our way of mending the bond between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians, but it is also a way in which we hope to greatly reduce the racism present in our society; not only racism targeted against Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders but against all those who experience racism in its various forms. While it will most likely be impossible to completely eradicate racism (unfortunately), one can only hope that a week like this (with all its events) will support and advertise the acceptance and sharing of all cultures.

While we can never fix the wrongs that happened in the past, we can fix the wrongs that are happening today, and, I believe, Reconciliation Week, a week that unifies all Australians, is just one way that Australia is doing that. Imagine a world without racism and segregation. A world without judgement of a person’s cultural beliefs – what a wonderful world.

Additional Links:

https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/explainer/what-national-reconciliation-week

https://www.reconciliation.org.au/national-reconciliation-week/

https://www.reconciliation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Lets-talk…Reconciliation.pdf

https://www.reconciliation.org.au/

Credits: abc.net, NACCHO