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Animal Emblems of Australia

Officially Proclaimed Fauna Symbolic of Australian States and Territories


Certain Australian animals and birds are closely identified with Australia and its states and territories, and a number of them have been officially adopted by their respective governments as their faunal emblem. Some may have both an animal and bird emblem while others may only have an animal or bird emblem or none at all.

Australia's animal emblems:

1. Australia

The nation has no official faunal emblem although, being on the Australian coat of arms, the kangaroo and emu are traditionally thought of as the country's national animal and bird symbols. Australia has an official floral emblem, the golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha).

2. Australian Capital Territory

The Australian Capital Territory has no official animal emblem but has an official bird emblem, the gang-gang cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum), and an official floral emblem, the royal bluebell (Wahlenbergia gloriosa).

3. New South Wales

Platypus, copyright Glynn Anderson, courtesy Taronga Conservation Society
Platypus © Glynn Anderson, courtesy Taronga Conservation Society

The faunal animal emblem of the state of New South Wales is the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus).

Found in eastern Australia, the platypus lives in burrows by freshwater rivers or lakes. It has webbed feet and is able to swim underwater for a couple of minutes before surfacing for air.

Generally described as duck-billed and beaver-tailed, the platypus weighs on average from 1 to 2.4 kilograms and has a 12-year average lifespan.

The platypus is one of two monotremes, found to exist only in Australia and New Guinea, the other being the echidna. As a monotreme, the platypus is a mammal that lays eggs from which its young are hatched.

In addition to its animal emblem, New South Wales has a floral emblem, the waratah (Telopea speciosissima); a bird emblem, the kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae); a fish emblem, the blue groper (Achoerodus viridis); and a gemstone emblem, the black opal.

4. Northern Territory

Red kangaroo in the Northern Territory bush, copyright Tourism NT
Red kangaroo in the Northern Territory bush © Tourism NT

The red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) is the animal emblem of the Northern Territory. It is not only the largest mammal native to Australia but also the world's largest surviving marsupial.

The male red kangaroo can stand as tall as 2 metres and weigh up to 90 kilograms. The smaller females have an average weight of 26 kilograms. They are found in groups in many areas of central Australia.

The red kangaroo hops to move at a speed of 20 to 25 kilometres per hour, although at short distances it can muster up to 70 kilometres per hour. A common perception is that kangaroos can only move forward and never backward.

The Northern Territory proclaimed the red kangaroo its animal emblem in 1975.

The territory's bird emblem is the wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax) and its floral emblem, Sturt's desert rose (Gossypium sturtianum).

5. Queensland

Koala at Queensland's Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, copyright Tourism Queensland
Koala at Queensland's Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary © Tourism Queensland

Queensland's animal emblem is one of Australia's most popular native creatures, the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). There's hardly any Australian souvenir shop without a stuffed toy koala or items emblazoned with pictures of the cuddly marsupial.

Get up close and personal with a koala at Australia's many wildlife sanctuaries and parks, such as Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary southwest of central Brisbane, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast, or Featherdale Wildlife Park in western Sydney.

As a marsupial, the koala carries its young in a pouch. In adulthood, Queensland koalas weigh from 8 to 10 kilograms while those in Victoria may weigh up to 12 kilograms.

The koala lives in trees, sleeps mostly in the daytime, and feeds on eucalyptus leaves.

Queensland has a bird emblem, the brolga (Grus rubicunda); an aquatic emblem, the Barrier Reef anemone fish (Amphiprion akindynos); a floral emblem, the Cooktown orchid (Dendrobium phalaenopsis); and a gemstone emblem, the sapphire.

6. South Australia

A hairy-nosed wombat gets a cuddle at Urimbirra Wildlife Park, SA, copyright SATC / Adam Bruzzone
A hairy-nosed wombat gets a cuddle at Urimbirra Wildlife Park, South Australia © SATC/Adam Bruzzone

The animal emblem of South Australia is the hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons), adopted by the government in August 1970. Also known as the plains wombat, it is a marsupial mammal native to Australia and totally protected in South Australia, where it is mostly found.

Adults grow to 30 centimetres high, 75 to 95 centimetres long, and are reported to weigh from 18 to 32 kilograms.

In South Australia the hairy-nosed wombat may be found in large numbers on Eyre Peninsula and the Gawler Ranges. It feeds solely on plant material which may be its only source of water.

Its lifespan is from 5 to 30 years.

South Australia also has a marine emblem, the leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques); a gemstone emblem, the opal; and a floral emblem, Sturt's desert pea.

7. Tasmania

Tasmania has no official animal emblem although the endangered Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisi) is often thought as the state animal. The state has an official floral emblem, the Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus); and a mineral emblem, crocoite, an unusual orange-red lead mineral.

8. Victoria

Victoria's animal emblem is Leadbeater's possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri), an endangered possum species in old growth mountain ash forests in the central highlands of Victoria. The only species in the Gymnobelideus genus, it was named after John Leadbeater, chief taxidermist at the National Museum of Victoria until the late 1880s.

Leadbeater's possum measures about 30 centimetres in length, half of which is the possum's tail, and weighs from about 100 to 170 grams.

It normally lives in a nest in a tree hollow as part of a small colony.

Leadbeater's possum was made Victoria's faunal animal emblem in 1968.

Victoria also has a bird emblem, the helmeted honeyeater (Lichenostomus melanops cassidix); a marine faunal emblem, the weedy seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus); and a floral emblem, the common heath (Epacris impressa).

Leadbeater's possum and the helmeted honeyeater are both considered to be endangered species.

9. Western Australia

Numbat at Dryandra State Forest, Western Australia, copyright Tourism Western Australia
Numbat at Dryandra State Forest, Western Australia © Tourism Western Australia

Western Australia's animal emblem is the numbat or banded anteater (Myrmecobius fasciatus), a small marsupial feeding almost exclusively on termites. Once found in large numbers in the southern regions of the Australian continent, the numbat is now found only in small colonies in some areas of Western Australia and is listed as an endangered species.

The numbat is 35 to 45 centimetres long, including a bushy tail. It weighs from 280 to 700 grams.

A diurnal marsupial, it spends most of its day hunting termites, using its front claws to dig them up in loose earth and capturing them with a long, sticky tongue.

Although a marsupial, the numbat has no pouch and its young are said to cling to the mother's teats until they have grown to some 7.5 centimetres before letting go.

Western Australia also has a bird emblem, the black swan (Cygnus atratus), and a floral emblem, the red and green kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos manglesii).

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