Words by Steven Pappin
Feature images by Tabitha Lean
G’day there. My name is Steven. Everyone knows of kangaroos, koalas and maybe wombats— because they are very big. But most people do not know any of the small ones. So, I am going to introduce you to five of the cutest little Australian marsupials that you probably have never seen before.
There is only one species of numbat in Australia today. Numbats are unlike and unrelated to any other marsupials. They are insectivorous. Their closest living relatives, the dog sized thylacine was hunted to extinction nearly 100 years ago. The name NOOMBAT, comes from the Nyungar language of southwest Australia, and their other name WALPURTI, is from the Pitjantjatjara Language, of Central Australia. These days they only live in the wild in the south western corner of Australia. They are an endangered species and their numbers are dropping, but there are captive breeding programs, trying to save them and keep these amazing animals existing in Australia.
There are 21 species, all of which occur in Australia. The Dunnart is a carnivorous marsupial. They carry their newborn in a pouch like a kangaroo, until they are too big for the pouch. The joeys then cling to the mothers’ underside to be carried around while she hunts, until they are old enough to hunt on their own. Dunnarts are tiny hunters that eat insects, lizards and even mice. They are like mouse-sized marsupial foxes, found all over Australia.
There is one species left. When Europeans began to colonise Australia, they discovered the lesser bilby and thought it so similar to a rabbit that it was an excellent creature to hunt and eat. The lesser bilby was hunted to extinction back in the 1940s. The greater bilby however is only found in the central and western desert regions, so their colonies have faired far better. However, like the numbat, the introduction of predatory species, such as foxes, dogs and cats and competitor species like rabbits, has severely diminished their populations.
Possums and Gliders
Australia has 30 species. Possums are our most prolific animal today. They have adapted to live in the city and you can see common brushtail possums in Adelaide’s parklands at nights. The most amazing thing is there are 30 different kinds of possums, of all shapes and sizes all over Australia: five pygmy possums, five brushtails possums (+ two subspecies), seven ringtail possums, two cuscus, one Scaly-tail possum, two micro gliders, five gliders and a greater glider. Australia even has three species of terrestrial possums—all others in the world live in trees. Like gliders:
Feather tailed gliders are the smallest gliders in the world. They are also called pygmy gliding possums. They are arboreal marsupials. They have large flaps of skins under their legs that stretch out to catch the air when they jump from a tree so they can soar like a bird, allowing these tiny creatures, smaller than a mouse, to glide for 50 Meters, between trees.
One of the Dasyuridae family, has two subspecies: Kowari are very unique animals and, although they are unlike any other in the world, they are one of the 75 species of carnivorous marsupials belonging to the family Dasyuridae, in Australia. One sub-species, the pallidior, is found in North Eastern South Australia; while the other yrnie, in South Western Queensland, is suspected to have already become extinct. The name kowari come from the Diyari language of northern South Australia.
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