Australia is home to two species of crocodile; the Freshwater Crocodile (also know as Johnstone's Crocodile) and the Saltwater Crocodile (also know as the estuarine crocodile). While both species may look similar in appearance to someone not familiar with Australia's crocodiles, they are vastly different animals.
The Freshwater Crocodile (pictured at top) is generally found in inland freshwater areas of northern Australia. They are sometimes found near coastal areas, but are much more common in inland areas. Freshwater Crocodiles have a slender snout and are much smaller in build and overall size compared to the Saltwater Crocodile. Freshwater Crocodiles can grow up to 3 meters in length.
Unlike the highly dangerous Saltwater Crocodile, the Freshwater Crocodile tries to avoid human contact and is usually quick to flee from any human disturbance. It is important to note, however, that Freshwater Crocodiles may bite if provoked or surprised, so it is best to keep a safe distance!
The Saltwater Crocodile (pictured at bottom) is found in estuaries, rivers, lagoons and swamps of northern Australia. Saltwater Crocodiles have a broad snout and a heavy build. Saltwater Crocodiles are the largest of all living reptiles with males growing to a length of up to 6 m (20 ft) and a weight of 1,000–1,075 kg (2,205–2,370 lb).
The Saltwater Crocodile is the top predator in its environment, and the larger Saltwater Crocodiles treat humans as prey. Saltwater crocodiles have the strongest bite of any animal today, and have immense power and speed. Any human unfortunate enough to be ambushed by this apex predator is very unlikely to escape without serious injury, and many attacks are indeed fatal. The Saltwater Crocodile has a long history of attacking humans who unknowingly venture into their territory, and about 1-2 fatal attacks occur each year in Australia.
The Dingo is Australia's wild dog. They are not a native animal of Australia, but are widely regarded as one of the most well-known Australian animals.The dingo is the largest land-based predator in Australia, and the most common species to make up a dingo's diet include kangaroos, wallabies, cattle, possums, rabbits, rats and wombats. For larger prey, dingoes hunt in packs, and for smaller prey, dingoes often hunt alone.
It is believed that dingoes were introduced into Australia around 3500-5000 years ago by Asian seafarers. Dingoes live in a wide variety of habitats throughout mainland Australia; ranging from the snowfields in the southeast, to the central desert regions, to the tropical north. Dingos are not found in Tasmania.
In the wild, the average male dingo weighs 15.8 kg (35 lb) and the average female dingo weighs 14.1 kg (31 lb). Wild dingos generally live between 3–5 years. Interestingly, it is said that a few live past 7–8 years and some may even survive for up to 10 years of age.
The emu is Australia's tallest native bird and can reach up to 2 metres (6'5") in height. This height means that emus have very long legs, and they are able to sprint at up to 50 km/h (31 mph)!
Emus are found only in Australia, and they live throughout most of the continent and in nearly all habitat types. Emus feed on a variety of items such as grasses, fruits, seeds, plant shoots, insects and other small animals.
Kangaroos are another one of the most famous Australian animals. The Kangaroo is a native Australian marsupial and is the largest marsupial surviving on Earth today. Kangaroos are renowned for their large hind legs and powerful tail which allows them to balance as they hop around.
There are two main sub-species of kangaroo in Australia; the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, and the larger Red Kangaroo (which can weigh up to 90 kilograms). Kangaroos graze on plant matter throughout most of Australia, and they are social animals which live in groups that are commonly referred to as "mobs".
Koalas are one of the most famous Australian animals. Koalas are a native Australian marsupial (meaning that their offspring are born relatively undeveloped and require further development in their mother's pouch).
A koala's main food source is eucalypt leaves, and koalas primarily inhabit eucalypt forests around the eastern and south-eastern coastline of Australia. Although there are more than 700 eucalypt species in Australia (ANPSA), koalas will only eat leaves from less than 50 of these species. Unfortunately, that means that habitat loss is the greatest threat to the survival of koalas, and koala numbers are in serious decline.
Thankfully, the Australian Koala Foundation (a not-for-profit organisation) is dedicated to the conservation of koalas and their habitat, and has done wonderful work over the last 30 years in raising the awareness of the global community.
Wombats are another one of the most famous Australian animals, and some people argue that they are one of the cutest! The wombat is a native Australian marsupial with very short, muscular legs and a stocky, strong body that reflects it's burrowing nature. In fact, wombats are one of the world's largest burrowing animals. Wombats dig very large burrows that can be up to 3 to 30 metres (10 to 100 feet) in length and up to 3.5 metres (11.5 feet) in depth. An interesting fact about wombats is that their pouch faces backwards so that it remains free of dirt when they are burrowing! (A personal thankyou to Georgia for informing us of this amazing fact!).
Australia has three species of wombat: the common wombat, the northern hairy-nosed wombat and the southern hairy-nosed wombat. Wombats feed on grasses and roots and, being nocturnal, are rarely seen out of their burrows during the day.