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Australian Animals

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Kangaroo Pets

Brenda J. emailed us asking, "Are kangaroos free to run about in the cities like domestic dogs and cats do? Are they vicious or do people treat them like pets?"

You wouldn't expect to find deer running around in the streets of New York City. So, no, you're not going to find kangaroos hopping around downtown Sydney. However, drive out a ways to one of the golf courses, and you may spot a mob of them laying around as if they owned the place.

Australia has a love-hate relationship with kangaroos. The roo appears as an emblem on the Australian Coat of Arms. However, kangaroo

meat is available in grocery stores shelves. The meat is high in protein, low in fat (about 2%).

Brenda, you need to remember that while kangaroos may look cute, they are definitely wild animals. They are not meant to be pets. They have very sharp long claws, powerful hind legs and muscular tail. Leave them alone and they generally won't bother you.

A few years back, while staying with a friend who was licensed to care for injured animals, I had the pleasure of holding and bottle-feeding a baby swamp wallaby. But when it came to the big testosterone-charged male roo that stood about 8 feet from me, I was afraid. Luckily I was inside watching him through a big window.

Chris cared for quite a lot of animals and had a mob of wild roos that lived on her property. Although she raised many of them by hand, she was the first to warn us they were not pets.

     • Eastern Grey Kangaroos Fighting
When you watch this, remember that your body is not as hard and tough as theirs. They can disembowelled dogs and people when provoked.

Australia Has Flies ? Really ?

Brenda J asked, "Why does Australia have so many flies?"

Australia has over 6,000 species of flies: blowflies, fruit flies, hover flies, houseflies, midges (sand flies), and mosquitoes. Some flies bite while others annoy us with their constant presence and maggot offspring. A big introduced pest is the Australian Sheep Blowfly (Lucilia cuprina) – harmful to sheep and costly to our sheep industry.

Yes, we have lots of flies, but I don't think we really have more flies than anywhere else. It's just that Aussie flies are pretty aggressive. 

The Aussie Salute

What's an Aussie salute? It's also known as the Barcoo salute or the Bush salute. Whatever you call it, you're doing it when you wave one hand in front of your face over and over to stop aggressive bush flies from getting on your face, and into your nose or mouth.

The bush fly (Musca vetustissima) is the species most responsible for the salute. This is because it's attracted to bodily fluids (sweat, saliva, blood) and your eyes.

For an example of the Aussie Salute, have a look at this funny YouTube video made by a tourist.

CSIRO Anatomical Atlas of Flies

For a fascinating look at flies, the CSIRO has created an Anatomical Atlas of Flies. If you're a teacher, this is a must see for your students.

The Queensland Museum website has information and excellent photos on flies and other animals.


Whaling in Australia

Most of us know about convicts being transported to Australia by ship. However, did you know that as early as 1791 those same ships were used to hunt whales after dropping off the convicts?

Until 1833 whaling was Australia's first primary industry coming ahead of wool as an export commodity. Over 300 American whaling ships also operated off the Western Australian coast in 1840. As late as the 1970s over 1,000 sperm whales were killed at the last Australian whaling station at Frenchman Bay, WA. This stopped when The Whale Protection Act in 1981 prohibited whaling in Australian waters.

The last Australian-based whaling fleet ended operation in 1978. World-wide the number of whales killed that same year was 28,240 whales. Of that number, the most were caught by the USSR (12,139), Japan (8,999 whales) and Peru (1,511).

Whales in Australia

Some of the whales travelling through Australian waters (in order of size): Blue Whale (40 metres, Finback or Rorqual (25m), Sperm Whale (20m), Southern Right Whale (18m), Humpback (15m), Little Piked Whale (10m), Killer Whale (9m), False Killer Whale (6m), Pigmy Whales (6m), Pigmy Sperm Whale (4m)

Size conversions for our American friends ... .

  40m = 131.2 ft
  25m = 82.0 ft
  20m = 65.6 ft
18m = 59.1 ft
15m = 49.2 ft
10m = 32.8 ft
9m = 29.5 ft
6m = 19.7 ft
4m = 13.1 ft

Lorikeet Mistake

Linda McM wrote us that she sent one of our birthday cards to her vet friend. He enjoyed the card but said we had it wrong. The bird shown was a male Eclectus Roratus, not a lorikeet. He's treated them in his practice so he knows his birds.

We've been feeding lorikeets in our backyard for years and have no excuse how we could make such a mistake.

No worries. We've added a real lorikeet card and fixed the other one. If you know someone having a birthday or just for the fun of it, send a lorikeet card today!

Kangaroo Island

Australia is often called an island continent since its surrounded by ocean. But did you know Australia has over 8,000 islands within its maritime borders.

Karen, a grade four student from Iowa, USA wanted to know if Kangaroo Island was called that because it has so many roos. Actually Capt. Matthew Flinders sailing on the HMS Investigator gave the island its name when he landed there in March 1802.

Why that name?

When the men came ashore, the kangaroos were so tame, they had no trouble killing them. The men had not eaten fresh meat for 4 months so this was a welcome occasion. As a result Capt. Flinders honoured the kangaroos by naming the island after them.

Kangaroo Island is also famous for being the oldest bee sanctuary in the world. For a list of Australia's biggest islands, see our Land Facts page.


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