Unique animals of northern Australia
The world’s largest tropical savanna abounds with wonderful wildlife
Northern Australia is a very special place. Stretching from the breathtakingly beautiful Kimberley in the west to Cape York in the east, across Australian icons like Arnhem Land and Kakadu, it’s one of the last remaining large-scale natural areas left on Earth.
The region is home to an astonishing 460 species of birds, 110 mammals, 40% of Australia’s reptiles, and a surprising 225 species of freshwater fish – many of them endemic (unique to the area). While spectacular and raucous birds like cockatoos are hard to miss during the day, most mammals are nocturnal. About a third are bats and a fifth are native rodents but there are also many marsupials, including kangaroos and wallabies, bandicoots, possums, dunnarts and quolls.
Even though the region is teeming with wildlife, many species are threatened and some are in danger of extinction. Poor land and fire management, grazing and introduced species have all had a negative impact.
We’re working with partners across the north in places like Fish River Station to better manage the natural environment.
Meet some of our northern neighbours and help us to continue our work to secure their futures.
The Gouldian Finch is perhaps the most beautiful small bird in the world. The impressive colour of its plumage appealed to bird enthusiasts and hence large number of them were trapped in the wild for the local and international bird trade up until the early 1980s. This along with a parasitic air-sac mite and habitat changes as a result of land clearing and fire are the main causes of their decline.
Fire plays a large role in their survival. In the dry season, they are dependent on controlled fires to burn the undergrowth so that they can find seeds on the ground to feed on. In the wet season, they prefer to live in areas which have been burned in the previous dry season. This produces lush new growth with plenty of seeds for food. Improved burning practices are helping them make a comeback. Watch this video on improved burning practices.
These spotted marsupial predators of the north are threatened by the continued spread of the introduced and toxic Cane Toad. Highly adaptable, they are finding refuge on some offshore, toad-free islands and thriving on Fish River Station.
Black-footed Tree Rat
This large native rodent is also doing very well at Fish River Station even though it has declined elsewhere. It can weigh almost a kilogram and stands up to 31 centimetres tall. It is known to Aboriginal people as the Djintamoonga or Manbul.
The smaller of Australia’s two crocodile species, this reptile of the north’s billabongs and creeks rarely attacks humans. It hunts fish, water birds, snakes, frogs and even prey as large as wallabies.