KANGAROO ISLAND WILDLIFE
Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third-largest island, measuring 150km (93 miles) east to west and 90km (56 miles) north to south at it’s widest point), totalling 4400km² (1700miles²). Nearly half of the original vegetation has been retained and over one third of the land is protected across 30 National and Conservation parks. These are connected by roadside and creek-line corridors which carry excellent wildlife habitat across the landscape.
Over 90% of the Island is mallee and woodland dominated largely by Eucalyptus and the balance shrubland, fernland and forest. This provides habitat for a rich variety of animals.
- Kangaroo Island Kangaroo
- Tammar Wallaby
- Short-beaked Echidna
- Southern Brown Bandicoot
- Australian Sea-lion
- Rosenberg’s Goanna
- 4 possums
- 6 bats
- 2 fur-seals
- 18 whales and dolphins
- 2 snakes
- A dragon
- 6 skinks
- 2 geckoes
- 6 frogs
- 3 native rats
- a dunnart
- and over 260 birds.
Kangaroo Island separated from mainland Australia around 10,000 years ago, due to rising sea level after the last glacial period. Due to this long isolation, many animals are local sub-species and one, the sooty dunnart, is unique to Kangaroo Island. Other than domestics, there are few introduced species: Koalas and Platypus (released in the 1920s), cats, goats, pigs and deer, a few rodents; Bearded Dragons, Shingleback and Blue-tongued Skinks. Notably foxes and rabbits which have had much impact elsewhere in Australia have not been established.
The marine environment is equally diverse with more variation in lifeforms in Island waters than along the entire length of the Great Barrier Reef and much of this is now protected in a network of marine parks. Key marine species other than marine mammals include Blue Groper and the ornate Leafy Sea-Dragon. Key wildlife encounters offered by Exceptional Kangaroo Island on small group tours are with Kangaroo Island Kangaroos, Tammar Wallabies, Short-beaked Echidnas, Australian Sea-lions and Long-nosed Fur Seals, with a series of secondary encounters experienced on an opportunistic basis.
SEASONAL SIGHTING OPPORTUNITIES
SUMMER | DECEMBER, JANUARY & FEBRUARY
In December, black swans move in large numbers to the sheltered waters around American River as the freshwater wetlands dry up. Australian and New Zealand fur-seal breeding peaks in January with fierce territorial battles which can be viewed by visitors from the safety of the boardwalk at Admiral’s Arch. Hooded dotterels nest on many of the Island’s sandy beaches in January. Watch out for the Island’s largest terrestrial predator, the threatened Rosenberg’s goannas on the roadside. They are active Island-wide as February is courtship and egg-laying season. The lime green and yellow shades of new growth transforms thousands of hectares of mallee wilderness across the Island.
AUTUMN (FALL) | MARCH, APRIL & MAY
Glossy black cockatoos begin to choose their nesting hollows in preparation for their annual nesting (April through June and in October). Little penguins return in April to start their annual breeding, with males selecting burrows and renovating them in the hope of attracting a female. Black Swamp in Flinders Chase National Park becomes alive in May with Cape Barren geese selecting nesting territories.
WINTER | JUNE, JULY & AUGUST
June sees Southern right whales make their annual visit to the protected waters around Kangaroo Island and they head back south to Antarctic waters in October. Black swans nest on their large an elaborate nests in the wetlands and along the rivers in June. Echidna mating trains are seen occasionally across the Island during winter with one female doggedly pursued by up to ten males. In August, migratory waders arrive from their Northern hemisphere summer breeding (best sites include American River, Murray Lagoon and Reeves Point). Kangaroos and wallabies have their joeys emerging from the pouch and starting to explore in August.
SPRING | SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER & NOVEMBER
Shearwater migration – in September, hundreds of thousands of birds move past the South Coast of the Island in a continuous stream rising and falling on the air currents above the ocean swell (best site for viewing is any of the lighthouse promontories). In November, Australian sea-lions use the broader Summer beach to bask on the sand in between fishing trips to the continental shelf. Tiny terrestrial orchids can be found flowering in deep protected leaf litter in many habitat types across the Island. These are part of a flora of almost 900 native plant species, nearly 50 of which are found nowhere else on earth. On the Eastern end of the Island, striking white or pink-tinged Centenary Starburst (Thryptomene ericaea) dominates the roadsides.