One of the most amazing things about both Australia and New Zealand is the abundance of truly exotic and unique wildlife. Both countries are famous for knocking tourists off their feet with the sometimes comical absurdity of the animals that live there.
When visiting Australia, be sure to see plenty of marsupials. The most common and well known of these types of mammals are the kangaroo and the koala. A marsupial is a mammal whose female also has a pouch where she carries her babies after they are born. Apart from kangaroos and koalas, there are many types of smaller rat or mouse like creatures, as well as possums.
Marsupials – apart from the kangaroo – are largely endangered animals. Mostly this is because they are small and they have very exclusive diets. An unfortunate consequence of Europeans arriving in Australia are non-native animals such as cats, dogs, rats and other animals that prey on or compete with resources of these marsupials.
There are only three monotremes in the world, two of which live in Australia. A monotreme is a marsupial with an extra twist – it also lays eggs like a reptile or bird. This is one amazing thing about Australian biodiversity, in that the land was isolated from the rest of Asia so many millions of years ago, that the fauna had a chance to evolve in very unique ways.
The platypus is probably the most well known of all the monotremes. It lays eggs which hatch and drink her milk, while riding in her pouch. The male also has a poisoned barb on one of his hind feet for self defense.
The platypus is an extremely endangered animal and the penalties for removing one from the wild are very harsh.
The echidna is the only other monotreme that lives in Australia. It is a type of porcupine, but its spines are thicker and it cannot fire them like a porcupine does with its quills. It also lays eggs and the young drink milk.
Both Australian monotremes prey on insects and are endangered.
Both Australia and New Zealand have their fair share of wacky birds that put the road runner to shame. Australia has the giant emu, a type of ostrich with green and black feathers and smaller. The emu runs very fast and lays large, green eggs. On emu farms, these eggs are cultivated for resale and can produce an omelette that serves about 10 people.
If you’re visiting New Zealand, then that island also has its collection of crazy birds. There’s the flightless kiwi which is the iconic emblem of the country as well as the elusive rhea, which is another type of ostrich but lives in dense rainforests.