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KANGAROO ISLAND WILDLIFE

Introduction

The wonderful unique and abundant animals of Kangaroo Island are both introduced to the Island since settlement or are native to the Island as sub species of those found on mainland Australia.

The isolation of the Island thousands of years ago has produced a predator free environment. Dingos, Rabbits and Foxes were introduced to Australia after Kangaroo Island was isolated from the mainland. Foxes and Rabbits were introduced to Kangaroo Island unsuccessfully in the 1800's.

All records of aboriginal people here end around the same time as the island was cut off from mainland Australia by rising sea levels.  Respecting the land these people did not kill off the animals and it is not known why they left here.Tammar Wallaby Artefacts and  tools have been located at various sites indicating that there have been aboriginal people living here as these items seem to be dated about c. -10,000 years. Although some of these tools could have been made or brought here by the Aboriginal women that were brought here by the sailors in the early years before settlement. It is known that each camp had 3-4 women working at collecting food and hunting.

Overview

There are 18 native Mammals on Kangaroo Island. Eight are marsupial (with pouches), 2 are monotremes (egg laying ) and 8 are placental (mice and bats). There are 6 well known marine mammals living close to the shores of this sanctuary Island.

Marsupials

The sub-species of the Western Grey Kangaroo which gives the island its name, are physically a very appealing Kangaroo. It has a thicker coat, darker markings around the eyes and a light patch on its breast, unlike its mainland cousin. It is also shorter than the Kangaroos on the mainland. The Kangaroo has a gentle nature to match its looks and is shy of people, except at Flinders Chase National Park, where some kangaroos have been 'tamed' through human contact and will happily approach cars and people.

It is prohibited to feed the Kangaroos
and other Wildlife on Kangaroo Island

The Tammar Wallaby was abundant on the mainland prior to the introduction of competing animals and predators. It exists now only on islands off the coast of South and Western Australia and Kangaroo Island is one of those places. Here the Tammar Wallaby has thrived in the absence of predators and can be seen as it moves around at night and is prolific in the township of American River where in summer it comes into the town looking for food in the gardens of our homes.Koala

The Common Brushtail Possum is also abundant, and a nuisance to farmers and fruit growers as it has adapted too well to cleared forest land. Although they are ground feeders generally, they have a love of domestic fruits. It spends the day sleeping in tree hollows and the young are carried at first in a pouch and then on the mothers back. The Brushtail is also the major predator of the Glossy Black Cockatoo's chicks and eggs. This animal has a waddling gait if seen walking on the ground but if it goes into a tree or onto a power cable it becomes a skilled aerialist.

Koalas were introduced here in the 1930's to build a colony in the event of the extinction of the mainland Koala population. The Koala is an icon of Australia and thrived on the island with a lack of predators and an abundance of Koala preferred gum leaves, these being from the Manna, Swamp and Blue Gum. The Koala eats about 0.5 kg (1 lb.) of leaves each day.

Their numbers increased so well that the Koala was eating its way to starvation with the population of Koalas here reaching over 5000. A programme was undertaken to reduce the numbers to a sustainable population. 2500 were sterilised and 850 were relocated to mainland sites. The birth rate has slowed and the Koala is now at comfortable numbers on Kangaroo Island although monitoring of numbers will continue. They can be viewed at Hanson Bay, Cygnet River and Flinders Chase National Park.

The only endemic species to Kangaroo Island is represented by the Sooty Dunnart. A shy and small marsupial, it was found in 1969 in a mallee scrub area. Not many have been found but it has been identified as a new species and as the only endemic species to Kangaroo Island it is worthy of mention.Glossy Black Cockatoo

Monotremes

Short-nosed Echidnas are a blonder sub-species of a mainland monotreme.  These animals lay eggs and are covered in sharp spines like a porcupine. They burrow into ant and termite mounds for food and there young are hatched after incubation in a termite mound. The young are called 'puggles' and are carried by the mother in a pouch for about 50 days where they suckle from milk patches. They are then placed in a nursery burrow and the mother returns about every 6 days to suckle them for the next 6 months. They are then left to fend for themselves, as there is no interaction between adults and young after this. Echidnas are often seen walking beside roads and as they are nocturnal feeders are seen best in the early evenings but can be seen at any time of day, especially towards the western end of the Island.

15 Platypus were introduced successfully between 1928 and 1948. They remain on Kangaroo Island in the Flinders Chase Conservation Park. Safe from predators their exact numbers now are unknown. An interesting mammal that lays eggs in burrows on the sides of ponds and slow moving rivers. They eat worms and small crustaceans that live in the mud. They are expert swimmers and their movement is much like that of an otter. An unusual and secretive animal it is often referred to as the 'Duck Billed Platypus" because of its leathery bill shaped much like a ducks through which it senses the movements of worms and yabbies (shrimp-like crustaceans). It has webbed feet and a flat tail that resembles a beaver. Sitting quietly by a pond (billabong) in the Flinders Chase National Park often results in a view of these fascinating animals.

Marine Mammals

There are 6 kinds of marine mammals associated with Kangaroo Island.

The Australian Sealions are found on the South coast. Guided tours take people into the heart of the colony of about 600 seals at Seal Bay National Park. The Australian and New Zealand Fur Seals can be seen at Admirals Arch near Cape du Couedic. Commonly these animals can be seen at other coastal locations along the South Coast. The seals were nearly hunted to extinction, are now protected and increasing in numbers.Echidna

In 1803 Captain Pendleton of the American Brig the 'Union' was directed to the island by Captain Nicolas Baudin. Here he  found seals in abundance at the place now called American River. The crew of the 'Union'  reportedly killed over 60,000 taking the fur skins and the oil, which was shipped to Sydney and China. There are no longer seals at the eastern end of the Island.

The Southern Right Whale swims off the coast of the Island when the female comes closer to shore to 'calf' in the warmer waters. These enormous animals can be seen swimming in Nepean Bay at certain times of the year as well as along Back Stairs Passage on clear days. The whales can also be spotted off the South Coast near Vivonne Bay.

Bottle Nosed and Common Dolphins also abound in the waters around Kangaroo Island. they can be seen swimming at the bows of boats as they 'race' them to fishing grounds. These playful animals are a delight to watch as they swim with ease and play without regard for being watched.

Footnote

There are many more animals on Kangaroo Island and the above is commonly what visitors to the island look for and see. The rich fauna of both native and introduced species makes this Island a sanctuary for Australia's threatened and sadly disappearing animals. It is recommended to take a tour with a guide to see the animals in their natural habitat.

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