Australia is home to many strange and wonderful animals, some of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Lots of unique Australian species live at La Trobe’s Melbourne Campus, located in beautiful bushland about 14 kilometres from inner-city Melbourne. The Campus is also home to the La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary, which was set up in 1967 to protect and teach people about native Australian plants and animals.
Here are some of the feathered and furry creatures you might see while studying at La Trobe’s Melbourne Campus:
The animal you are mostly likely to see at La Trobe is the duck. In fact, it’s difficult to go anywhere without seeing a few! We have several different types of ducks here on the Melbourne Campus, including pacific black ducks and Australian wood ducks, and they can often be spotted swimming in the La Trobe moat, having a snooze on the grass, or herding their ducklings around the Campus.
Eastern grey kangaroo
The Eastern grey kangaroo is Australia’s second-largest marsupial (the largest is the red kangaroo), with males usually standing at around two metres tall. Baby kangaroos are called joeys, and are only the size of a jellybean when they are born. The joey lives for up to eight months in its mother’s pouch before it starts hopping around and exploring the world.
The emu is Australia’s largest native bird. Emus lay large green eggs, which are incubated by the father. He also looks after the babies once they have hatched. While emus can’t fly, they can run at speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour.
The sulphur-crested cockatoo is a large parrot with a loud, distinctive call. They are mostly white, apart from the bright yellow crest that gives them their name. You will often see a flock of sulphur-crested cockatoos foraging for seeds on the ground – when this happens, at least one bird stays up in the trees to watch for predators. As they are very intelligent, sulphur-crested cockatoos are often kept as pets, and in captivity they can live for more than 70 years.
Another brightly coloured Australian bird that can often be seen at La Trobe is the galah, which has distinctive pink and grey feathers. The name comes from the Aboriginal word ‘gilaa’. Like sulphur-crested cockatoos, galahs can live for many decades when kept as pets. In Australia, the word ‘galah’ is also sometimes used as a slang word for a loud or rude person.
A popular sight on campus is the possum, a native Australian tree-dwelling marsupial. Possums are nocturnal, so they tend to only come out looking for food at night. In the day, they tend to rest in trees. There are 69 species of possum, which range in size and colour. The pygmy possum is the smallest species, measuring to only 10 centimetres long, while the brushtail possum can reach more than a metre in length. Usually, around here, the possum is about the same size and weight of a domestic cat.
Easily mistaken for an owl, the tawny frogmouth is a silver-grey bird that perches on tree branches. Ranging from 34 to 53 centimetres tall, there are two other species of frogmouth, the Papuan frogmouth, found in the Cape York Peninsula, and the marbled frogmouth, found in the rainforests of north Queensland and Queensland-New South Wales border. The tawny frogmouth is a nocturnal bird that has a diet made up mostly of insects, worms, slugs and snails, while small mammals, frogs, and reptiles can also be on the menu.
If you are in the presence of a rainbow lorikeet, you can’t miss it – its bright red beak and colourful body makes it stand out. We have many rainbow lorikeets on campus at La Trobe, just have a peek at the trees, and you may be able to catch a glimpse of one. From flowers, to trees, fruits, seeds and some insects, these birds have quite an appetite, but during feeding time, be sure to bring ear plugs, as they let out an almost continuous chattering sound.
The echidna is the oldest surviving mammal on the planet today, and can be found across Australia. There are two species of echidnas – the long-beaked echidna and the short-beaked echidna – which can weigh between two and seven kilograms. Although many have seen them around campus, they are great at camouflaging themselves, and are usually found among rocks, in hollow logs and in holes around tree roots. With no teeth, echidnas enjoy a meal of ants and termites, and as they have no teeth, they hunt with their long, sticky tongue. When frightened, an echidna will curl into a ball with its snout and legs tucked beneath it and its spines sticking out.
Top tips on how to act around Australian native animals
With more than 850 different bird species, 760 reptile species and about 390 mammal species, at some point during your time in Australia, you are bound to encounter wildlife. If and when you do, be sure to keep a safe distance. With any wild animal, it is very important that you don’t intrude upon their space. Other tips are to be sure to enjoy the experience (but always be aware of your surroundings), stay calm, and of course, snap a great picture of the beauty (from a distance).
When you are in the presence of native animals, try not to yell/scream or make loud noises, do not try to touch them, move them, disturb their habitats or feed the animal (you never know what their temper is like, and many common foods are not good for animals, such as bread, milk and some meats), and do not run away from the animal (move slowly and quietly). Finally, do not try to take a selfie with the animal – the second you turn your back, you never know what might happen!
What to do if you encounter injured wildlife
If you encounter injured wildlife, contact your local wildlife rescue organisation such as Wildlife Victoria as soon as you can. They will tell you what to do next. Vet clinics and rescue organisations tend to not charge to accept wildlife.
If you find an animal in distress, be sure to only handle or move the animal if it would otherwise be in danger (for example, if it could be injured by something else like a moving car, or if it is in a dangerous situation). If you find a baby bird in distress, it is usually best to leave them be – if they are strong and healthy, their parents will protect them and they will know what to do.
If you find a dead female kangaroo, possum, wallaby, koala or wombat, be sure to check the pouch for a joey, as they can survive for days after the mother’s death. Do not remove the joey from the pouch, as this could injure it, but make sure you tell the authorities when you speak to them.
Before helping any injured wildlife, take precautionary steps to ensure you are not putting yourself or the animal in worse danger. If in doubt, call the authorities and let them handle it.
The team at the La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary is hoping to introduce more rare and endangered species soon, including brolgas, wombats and sugar gliders. If you want to find out more about the Sanctuary and the wildlife that live there, you can do a guided tour or a workshop.