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Australia is fortunate to have wonderful, unique and iconic wildlife. This site is dedicated to promoting its enjoyment and preservation.
Australia is a land mass unlike any other. The driest (inhabited) and flattest continent is also the most isolated, having spent the last 40 or so million years drifting alone in the Southern seas. During this time the wildlife has been left to develop largely without competition from other parts of the planet. Only bats and marine mammals would have breached these shores in early times, and more recently (but still some 5 million years ago) came the hopping mice. Elsewhere on the planet land masses were regularly joined and separated by the coming and passing of ice ages, and wildlife moved around on the land bridges these caused. Terra australis, however, remained apart from these other land masses and so the wildlife here was left to evolve into what we now see - a truly distinct and wonderful collection of creatures that is unlike anywhere else on Earth.
Australia today boasts 379 species of mammal, including 80% of the worlds marsupials and 2 out of the 3 monotremes, more than 750 species of birds (almost half of which are endemic), some 800 species of reptile (89% of which are endemic) and huge numbers of fish and arthropods. Australia's lonely evolution has led to peculiarities within these species, such that we now have the ten deadliest snakes and the most poisonous spiders, egg laying mammals and the only bird in the world with armour.
The past 40 million years has seen many changes in the climate of Australia, from dry to wet and back again, and so also the nature of the continents' animals has also changed. Only recently giant marsupials, such as the rhinoceros-sized diprotodon, still roamed this land, probably sharing it with aborigines, but it is the arrival of European settlers that has seen the greatest challenge to the survival of Australia's animals, particularly for the mammals.
Over the past 200 years we have introduced predators such as cats and dogs and cane toads, brought in exotic plants with which indigenous species cannot compete, polluted and degraded fragile ecosystems, led the wholesale clearance of the land for unsustainable agriculture, and now we appear to be heating the planet, with potentially disastrous consequence for our coral reefs and our amphibians, to mention but two.
Since European settlement some 29 mammal species have become extinct from the mainland Australia, with 10 of these surviving only on islands around our coast. This is a greater loss than any other continent. Twelve species of birds have also disappeared in this time and it is a similar story for reptiles. And unfortunately it does not end there. The list of animals which are threatened with extinction in Australia is extensive and includes 10 species of fish, 12 frogs, 13 reptiles, 32 birds and 34 mammals. Clearly there is much to be done.
This site is
not here to suggest answers to these problems. Hopefully though,
a better understanding of Australia's wildlife will lead to a better
appreciation of it, and this in turn may lead to a greater desire
to proactively protect that which remains.