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Australian animals: the cute, the scary and the just plain weird

 

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Australia Day is January 26th! It’s a day to celebrate all things Australian, so let’s take a look at some of our favourite Australian animals!

The cute

The kangaroo is the national animal of Australia. With its powerful hind legs, it’s able to jump as far as nine metres. Two kangaroos

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The kangaroo also has some smaller, and even cuter, cousins. There’s the wallaby, which looks like a scaled-down version of a kangaroo.

A wallaby with a baby in its pouch

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And the quokka, which seems more like a rodent but with big hind legs. Kangaroos, wallabies and quokkas are macropods, which means they have large back feet — all the better for hopping.

A quokka


Another adorable and well-known Australian animal is the koala. Koalas spend their time in eucalyptus trees, eating but mostly sleeping — they sleep over 18 hours in a day!

A koala with its baby

What do these animals have in common, besides the Australian passports and extreme cuteness? They’re all marsupials — a type of mammal that carry their babies in a built-in pouch on the mother’s stomach.

The scary

Australia has a reputation for having some animals that you wouldn’t want to meet outside of a zoo. However, it’s actually very rare for people to have bad encounters with animals in the wild. The crocodile is probably the most famous of Australia’s predators. Males grow to be five metres long on average, but some even reach seven metres!

A bunch of crocodiles
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The Tasmanian devil has a scary name and reputation, but a lot of that’s just for show. They snarl and show their teeth when threatened, but mainly save their bad tempers for fighting with each other over meals. These marsupials were once found all over Australia, but now live in the wild only on the island of Tasmania.

A Tasmanian devil

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

The weird

Then there are the Australian animals that are just… odd. Like the duck-billed platypus. The first scientists to encounter this furry duck-faced mammal thought it was a hoax. The weirdest thing of all is that platypus lay eggs. That’s something no other mammal does — except one other...

Two duck-billed platypus
Handout/Reuters


Meet the echidna! This spiny little creature is found in Australia and parts of New Guinea. Like an anteater, it uses its long sticky tongue to scoop up insects for food. A female echidna lays one grape-sized egg a year, carrying it a tiny pouch.

An echidna

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Maybe not as strange as the platypus or echidna, the wombat is still pretty goofy. These sturdy marsupials would probably belong in the cute category if not for the weird fact of their protective butts! Wombats are burrowers so when threatened they head underground. Anything following them will encounter a wombat rump that’s made up of super-tough cartilage. It’s a powerful shield against attack!

A wombat