May 1

You may not have heard of it before, but located 60 kilometres off the north-west coast of Western Australia, Barrow Island is one of the most important conservation reserves in the region. The island itself is around 25 kilometres long and 10 kilometres wide, and the arid landscape is mainly dominated by spinifex grasslands.

Barrow Island photo

Around 2,800 species have been recorded on Barrow, including 24 species and subspecies found nowhere else on Earth. Thanks to a world renowned Quarantine Management System to prevent the introduction of harmful invasive species and diseases to the island, some rare species are able to thrive here, despite having been driven to extinction on the mainland.

Marvellous marsupials

Burrowing bettong photo

The burrowing bettong or ‘boodie’ no longer exists on mainland Australia, and until recently was only found on three islands off the coast of Western Australia including Barrow. The only burrowing member of the kangaroo family, this nocturnal marsupial lives in small groups in an underground burrow or warren which may have just a single entrance, or up to 100! Other marsupials found on Barrow Island include the golden bandicoot, the black-footed rock-wallaby and the Barrow Island euro, a subspecies of the common wallaroo.

Birds on Barrow

Spinifexbird photo

Designated as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International, 119 bird species have been recorded on Barrow. The island supports a large number of migratory shorebirds including pied oystercatchers and fairy terns, as well as raptors such as the brahminy kite and osprey. Other species commonly seen here include an endemic subspecies of the white-winged fairy wren and the spinifexbird, the most abundant bird on the island, which thrives in the spinifex grasslands.

The predatory perentie

Perentie photo

The second largest lizard in the world after the Komodo dragon, the perentie is the top predator on Barrow Island. Prey is easily tracked as the perentie has extremely good eyesight and uses its long tongue to pick up chemical signals in the air. Like other monitor species, the perentie is able to run extremely fast over great distances, reaching speeds of up to 40 kilometres per hour, about the same speed as an Olympic sprinter! Once caught, prey is shaken violently until dead, and then swallowed whole.

An unusual amphibian

Main's frog photo

Only one species of frog is found on Barrow Island, a desert burrowing frog called Main’s frog. Only seen at the surface during the summer wet season, Main’s frog is able to survive in this arid habitat by spending the rest of the year underground in a state of torpor, retaining water inside its body by sealing itself inside a cocoon. It emerges to breed following heavy rains, with the female laying up to 1,000 eggs into temporary pools of water.

Travelling turtles

Green turtle photo

Important sea turtle rookeries are found on the shores of Barrow Island, with green turtles and flatback turtles coming ashore to nest between November and February. Undertaking tremendous feats of navigation, an adult green turtle returns to the same beach to breed each season, and some populations of green turtle migrate thousands of kilometres to feed and breed. We have recently developed a brand new Turtle Life Cycle education module to teach students aged 7-11 about the lives of these incredible turtles.

Natural resources on Barrow

Oil pumpjack photo

As well as being an area of great conservation importance, Barrow Island is also Australia’s largest operating onshore oilfield. More than 300 million barrels of oil have been produced on Barrow Island since 1964, with strict environmental, safety and health standards and procedures having been put in place in order to safeguard the environment and minimise the impact on the island ecosystem.

Find out more about Barrow Island

If you are interested in learning more about conservation on Barrow Island you can find out more from Chevron and the Department of Environment and Conservation.

You can also check out our new Barrow Island feature page and explore a wealth of species found there.

Claire Lewis, ARKive Researcher

Jan 26
Australia Day is an annual celebration held on the 26th January every year to mark the first arrival of ships in Sydney Cove from Great Britain in 1788. Every year on the eve of Australia Day, the Australian of the Year awards are given out. To celebrate, we thought we would give out some of our own awards to the animals found in Australia.

Most unique appearance

There are some very unusual looking animals in Australia, making this a tough category. Strong contenders included the Javanese cownose ray and the narrow-breasted snake-necked turtle. However the award went to the platypus; a creature so unusual looking that the first specimens brought back to England were though to be the work of a fraudulent taxidermist! With its duck-like bill, webbed feet and broad flattened tail, the platypus certainly has a very distinctive and unusual appearance.

Platypus photo

The platypus has a very unique appearance with its duck-like bill, webbed feet and broad flattened tail


Best camouflage

The winner of this award, the pygmy seahorse, is so well camouflaged in its coral reef habitat it was not discovered until the coral in which it lives in was being examined in a lab! The pygmy seahorse is found in the coral reefs around Australia, and it is not only the same colour as the coral in which it lives, it is also covered in small swellings which resemble the polyps of the coral. This results in the seahorse being very well camouflaged. Can you see the pygmy seahorse in the picture below?

Pygmy seahorse photo

Can you spot the pygmy seahorse?

Most dangerous

Australia is renowned for having some of the world’s most dangerous animals! There are poisonous snakes, spiders, jellyfish, sharks, crocodiles even the platypus has a venomous spur on the back of its rear ankles! However this award goes to one of Australia’s less well known venomous animals – the southern blue ringed octopus. This octopus may be small in size, but it has enough venom in its saliva to kill 26 adults! Its venom, which contains tetrodotoxin, causes neurological problems such as breathing troubles and paralysis. Normally brown in appearance, when threatened it develops blue ringed shape markings. There is currently no antivenom available for the blue ringed octopus.

Southern blue ringed octopus

Southern blue ringed octopus displaying its blue ringed shape markings

Best dressed

Colouration in animals has a wide range of functions. Whether for defence or for attracting a mate, Australia has some beautifully coloured animals including the sunset frog with its bright orange belly, and the multicoloured superb parrot. However the winner of this award is the Gouldian finch. This multicoloured finch, endemic to northern Australia, has a green body, a blue rump, a purple breast, a yellow belly and a red, black or yellow head. The very colourful adults are however upstaged by the chicks with their elaborate and colourful blue, yellow, black and white gape.

Gouldian finch chick

Gouldian finch chick gape

Life time contribution award

This category was very difficult with Australia having so many iconic animals. In the end, the winner was the koala. Koalas, endemic to Australia, are one of Australia’s best known animals. Though bear like in appearance the koala is actually a marsupial. The koala is mainly nocturnal, spending most of its time up in the trees where it can feed and rest, whilst gaining some protection. Koalas have fairly sedentary lifestyles with their diet mainly consisting of eucalyptus leaves. Koalas vary depending on where about in Australia they are found, and those found in south Australia are larger and have thicker fur than those in the north.

Photo of a koala relaxing in a tree

This koala is relaxing after its big win!


The Auzzie award

Like the Oscars have the Razzies, we have our own Auzzie award to give out.

Most unusual faeces

This result was unanimous – it had to go the wombat for having cubic poo!

Photo of a northern hairy-nosed wombat

This northern hairy-nosed wombat does not seem to want to collect its award!

Happy Australia day!

Let us know of any other awards you would like to give out to other Australian species.

Jemma Pealing, ARKive Media Researcher

Nov 16

A group of Tasmanian devils is to be transferred to a small offshore island in the hope of creating a self-sustaining population, free from the disease that is threatening the survival of the species.

Photo of a pair of juvenile Tasmanian devils at the entrance to the den

Juvenile Tasmanian devils at entrance to den

Found only in Tasmania, the Tasmanian devil population has been decimated in recent years by a highly contagious facial cancer. The cancer is spread through bites when the animals fight, and typically causes death within three to six months. Few disease-free areas now remain, and the Tasmanian devil population has plummeted by a staggering 91%.

Insurance population

In a desperate attempt to save this iconic species from extinction, 14 individuals are to be released on Maria Island, a national park off Tasmania’s east coast. The animals will be carefully selected from captive breeding programmes across Australia which have been set up to try and prevent the Tasmanian devil from dying out.

Photo of Tasmanian devil with Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD)

Tasmanian devil with Devil Facial Tumour Disease

The Maria Island translocation is designed to establish a self-sustaining population of healthy wild devils in a safe haven where they are protected from interaction with the deadly facial tumour disease,” said Brian Wightman, Tasmania’s Environment Minister. “It will strengthen the insurance population of disease-free Tasmanian devils, help preserve wild traits in the insurance population and provide genetic stock for future reintroductions.”

Last resort

A rugged island that can only be reached by boat or plane, Maria Island has never before been home to Tasmanian devils, so there should be no risk of disease. Experts believe the animals are unlikely to impact other native species on the island, although the ecosystem will be carefully monitored.

Photo of adult and juvenile Tasmanian devils fighting

The contagious cancer is spread through bites when Tasmanian devils fight over food and territory

According to Australia’s Environment Minister, Tony Burke, transferring the devils is a last resort, and has to be performed with good scientific oversight. All the animals will be carefully screened before they are released.

If the transfer is successful, scientists plan to increase the number of Tasmanian devils on Maria Island to about 50 over the next 2 years.

Read more on this story at The Telegraph – Australia’s Tasmanian devils to get fresh start on new island.

View photos and videos of Tasmanian devils on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

May 1

The koala has been listed as a threatened species in parts of Australia due to its shrinking population, according to officials.

Photo of koala sleeping

Koala sleeping

Koalas under threat

One of Australia’s most iconic marsupials, the koala is facing a range of threats, including habitat loss, urban expansion, dog attacks, vehicle collisions and disease. Its specialised diet of eucalyptus leaves confines it to quite specific habitats, while increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere may be reducing the nutrient content of the leaves it eats.

Climate change is also increasing the risk of drought and fires, with koalas being particularly vulnerable to bushfires as their slow movements and tree-dwelling lifestyle make it difficult for them to escape.

Photo of koala eating eucalyptus leaves

Koala eating eucalyptus leaves

Although the koala’s exact population size is unclear, in New South Wales and Queensland its numbers are believed to have fallen by as much as 40% since 1990.

Iconic species

Under the new listing, koalas in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory will be considered ‘vulnerable’ on Australia’s national list of threatened species. Extra funding will be given to develop new survey methods for koalas and find out more about koala habitat.

According to the Australian Environment Minister, Tony Burke, the decision to list the koala as vulnerable followed a “rigorous scientific assessment”.

Photo of koala joey feeding on eucalyptus leaves

Koala joey feeding on eucalyptus leaves

We’re talking about a species that is not only iconic in Australia, but is known worldwide, a species that has taken a massive hit over the last 20 years and we can’t wait any longer before we turn the corner when the scientists are telling us the evidence is in,” he said.

Koalas are an iconic Australian animal and they hold a special place in the community… People have made it very clear to me that they want to make sure the koala is protected for future generations.”

Varying populations

The listing does not cover the whole of Australia, with koala populations in some areas thought to be larger and stable or even increasing.

Photo of a koala


However, conservationists, including Deborah Tabart of the Australian Koala Foundation, have argued that the koala should be protected nationwide. Although the new listing may be a step in the right direction, the koala still faces many threats and the future of this Australian icon is far from secure.

Read more on this story at BBC News and the Australian Government media release.

Find out more about koala conservation at the Australian Koala Foundation.

View more photos and videos of the koala on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author

Jan 26

Australia Day is an annual celebration to mark the first arrival of ships in Sydney Cove from Great Britain in 1788. Held on the 26th January every year, Australia Day began as an anniversary dinner for the original colonists, to celebrate the love of the land they lived in. The name ‘Australia Day’ was not used until 1935, but today the anniversary still celebrates everything that’s great about Australia.

Here at ARKive, we thought we’d get into the spirit by celebrating some of Australia’s more unusually named critters…..



Similar to a kangaroo or wallaby in appearance, the quokka was given its peculiar name by the Aboriginal people living in Western Australia. The quokka is a species of marsupial, and therefore has a pouch in which the young are raised.

Quokka image

Quokka (Setonix brachyurus)



A small cat-sized marsupial, the chuditch is nocturnal and spends its days sleeping in hollow logs or burrows. This species is Western Australia’s largest endemic carnivore, and will feed on a wide range of things from small mammals, to lizards, frogs and birds!

Chuditch image

Chuditch (Dasyurus geoffroii)


Crest-tailed mulgara

This desert marsupial mouse is well-adapted to its arid habitat. Having evolved kidneys capable of producing highly concentrated urine, the crest-tailed mulgara does not even need to drink, with its food providing it with adequate water.

Crest-tailed mulgara image

Crest-tailed mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda)


Tasselled wobbegong

The highly unusual looking tasselled wobbegong is superbly camouflaged among sun-dappled coral by its beautiful mosaic markings. The scientific name of this shark roughly translates to ‘well fringed nose with shaggy beard’, and you can see why!

Tasselled wobbegong image

Tasselled wobbegong (Eucrossorhinus dasypogon)


Greater bilby

With its long, slender hind legs and oversized ears, the greater bilby is certainly a comical looking animal. To add to this appearance, the tail is carried as a stiff banner during the bilby’s cantering run.

Greater bilby image

Greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis)



The rare dibbler is a small carnivorous marsupial, with strong jaws and sharp teeth which it uses to capture its prey of invertebrates and other small ground-dwelling creatures.

Dibbler image

Dibbler (Parantechinus apicalis)



Newborn kowaris measure a mere 4 millimetres long at birth, and remain in the female’s pouch for around 56 days. After this, the young are left in the nest or ride on the female’s back, until weaned at about 95 to 100 days.

Kowari image

Kowari (Dasyuroides byrnei)


Golden bandicoot

Now who wouldn’t find these young golden bandicoots cute?! These well presented bandicoots have fused toes on their hind feet, which form a comb for grooming.

Golden bandicoot image

Golden bandicoot (Isoodon auratus)


Spotted any other unusually named Australian critters on ARKive? Let us know!

Celebrate Australia Day by taking a look at some of the other wonderful species found there.

Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author


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