The wet tropics of extreme northeast Australia extend 450 kilometres (280 miles) along the coast. Rain forests watered by seasonal monsoons maintain a moist environment where curious mammals of Far North Queensland roam. UNESCO lists the region as ‘an area possessing outstanding scenic features, natural beauty, and magnificent sweeping landscapes’. It praises ‘an exceptionally high level of diversity of both flora and fauna’ too. This diversity includes rare plants, unusual birds, strange reptiles, and 107 mammal species living in dense vegetation, some seen nowhere else.
Curious Mammals of Far North Queensland to See
These cute, and not so cute and cuddly creatures are among the oldest surviving species in the known universe. Scientists divide them into three main groups. These categories are:
- Egg-laying monotremes (platypus and spiny ant eaters)
- Marsupials with ‘kindergarten pouches’ (kangaroo and wallabies)
- Unusual mammals that bear fully-formed youngsters like us
Some of these curious mammals of Far North Queensland live in trees, from where they peer down upon inquisitive humans curiously. One lives in the water and lays eggs. The rest live on the forest floor, often near human settlements where we may disturb their prey. Please do drive carefully at night through Far North Queensland rain forests, because some may forage for freshly-killed food on roads. Night-adapted eyes are sensitive to light. Car headlamps and torches can distract attention for one critical moment, and then their life is gone.
The Agile Wallaby Macropus Agilis, or Sandy Wallaby
Although Agile Wallabies are solitary creatures, they may feed together in ‘mobs’ in open pasture to guard each other. The males weigh between 16 and 27 kilograms (35 to 60 pounds), with a head-to-tail length as much as 1.7 meters (5.5 feet). The females are on average one third smaller. These curious mammals of Far North Queensland raise their babies in their pouches for eight months, and finally wean them after eleven.
These generally harmless creatures were once endemic to northern Australia, especially in grasslands, dunes, heaths and open woodland. They prefer to feed near rivers, and bilabongs being isolated ponds. They are close to becoming a threatened species owing to farmers hunting them legally to protect their crops, and cars colliding with them on roads. This short report suggests our Cairns Agile Wallabies are among the last surviving mobs in Queensland.
Another Curious Australian Mammal – Bennett’s Tree-Kangaroo
These elusive creatures have adapted to living semi-permanently in trees, although they can bound between them if they need to, across open ground. They have been seen leaping as much as 9 meters (30 feet) down to a lower branch. And drop 18 meters (59 feet) from a treetop to the ground without harming themselves. This surely qualifies Bennett’s Tree-Kangaroo for the shortlist of the most curious mammals of Far North Queensland. The females weigh 8 to 10 kilograms (17 to 23 lbs), and the males some 25% more so they must have ‘springs in their legs’.
Bennetts Tree-Kangaroos are a ‘near threatened species’. Although their numbers are increasing, we only find them between Daintree some 125 kilometres (8o miles) north of us, and Cooktown a similar distance further on. Their habitat extends for some 50 kilometres (30 miles) inland through tropical rain forest leading to isolated mountains. The shy creatures are herbivores hunted by pythons and wild dingo dogs.
More Curious Mammals of Far North Queensland – Ringtail Possums
This rare, elusive creature inhabits upland and highland forests far away from dingo territory. From head to tail is measures around 65 centimetres (25 inches), of which the latter makes up half. Its favourite habitat is high-rainfall, misty tropical rain forests, where it lives on tree leaves and a few choice fruits. The solitary creature rears its young in a pouch kangaroo style, and shelters in daytime in hollow trees.
It is vulnerable to attacks by pythons, owls and other raptors, especially when it carries its older young on its back before weaning. The Australian Wildlife Conservancy is doing it’s best to preserve the three remaining colonies at Thornton Peak, Mount Windsor Tableland, and Mount Carbine Tableland. The best time to spot ringtail possums is at night, when driving slowly along Mount Lewis Road with flashlights some 150 kilometres (100 miles) north of our luxury holiday rental home on the fringe of Cairns.
Rare and Curious Australian Mammals that ‘Fly’
We have no idea what happened to this little fellow, but he seems happily content. Good photos are hard to come by, because Yellow Bellied Gliders AKA Fluffy Gliders live high up in tall eucalyptus trees, and glide between them. They manage this by leaping into the air and spreading out their arms and legs. This in turns stretches out a membrane between their 5th fingers and their ankles. After leaping forth from up on high, Yellow Bellied Gliders have been known to travel 100 meters (320 feet) through the air high above the forest floor.
These marsupials about the size of rabbits are gregarious, preferring to spend their days together in family groups in tree hollows. They are possums and so from the same tribe as the Daintree Ringtails. These curious mammals of Far North Queensland enjoy a delicious diet of nectar, honeydew, insects, pollen, and sap from eucalyptus, corymbia, angophora, and lophostemon trees. The furry little fellows are classified vulnerable, owing to loggers and farmers chopping down their habitats without providing sustainable alternatives. The Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland is trying its best to mitigate by proving nesting boxes, but results are inconclusive.
The Arboreal Herbivorous Marsupial We Call a Koala Bear
We hate to a spoil a secret but a Koala is not a bear at all. It’s closest relatives are wombats. Koalas are also somewhat irritable, preferring to sleep for 20 hours a day. That’s about the only other thing Koalas do besides snacking on their favourite take-away eucalyptus leaves. They are also fairly solitary, spending an average 15 minutes a day socialising, or 1% of their time.
If another Koala bothers them they snarl and grunt and bite. Sorry to have to dispel your illusion of cuddly Koala Bears. We think it best you know they have an attitude and are best viewed quietly from a distance in the forest. Koalas are commonest in South Queensland, although you could likely spot one in riverine rain forests north of Cairns. Koala Gardens in Kuranda provides close-up views of Koalas looking cute, eating eucalyptus leaves, snapping at each other, and yes, sleeping.
So Mammals Hunt on Dry Land and Give Birth to Babies?
The last of our curious mammals of Far North Queensland is the oddest of them all. National Geographic goes as far saying early scientists believed ‘nature’s most unlikely creatures‘ were a hoax. “The animal,” they explained, “is best described as a hodgepodge of more familiar species: the duck (bill and webbed feet), beaver (tail), and otter (body and fur). Males are also venomous. They have sharp stingers on the heels of their rear feet and can use them to deliver a strong toxic blow to any foe.” Well, we Aussies always have been an independent lot!
Fortunately for us, platypuses are not particularly large. Males average 50 centimetres (12 inches) and weigh a maximum 2.4 kilograms (5.3 pounds) with females slightly smaller. They are meat eaters that find their prey through electro reception, by detecting the electric fields muscles cause when they contract. They hunt under water by covering eyes and ears with folds of skin, and closing nostrils tightly. At Wanggulay we do the opposite by being sensitive to guests’ every need.
At Wanggulay, We Are Sensitive To Your Every Need
Guests come from around the world to our tropical paradise on the fringe of rain forest, where you may spot a few curious mammals of North Queensland yourself. We wish we could, but we can’t promise though. Cairns is a modern city of near 150,000 residents, and the animals are gradually retreating deeper into the shadows of moist tropical forests. Our government has nature conservation well in hand, and their numbers are stabilising and then increasing.
It would be wonderful to welcome you some day to Wanggulay. We built it for ourselves to use on holidays, and so you will find it quite different from other holiday rentals. Our family still comes here from time to time. We never fail to marvel at how close we are to nature, and how perfectly the timbers of the building merge into the forest almost within reach. A short stroll away are there are peaceful streams and waterfalls, and gorgeous coloured butterflies and birds. We would really like to welcome you some time to Wanggulay, your exclusive holiday home and springboard for trips to the Great Barrier Reef.