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Animals of Australia and New Zealand
The Kiwi, Platypus, Koala, Kangaroo
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The kiwi is about the size of a chicken. It has a stocky body with shaggy, brown feathers. The neck and legs of the kiwi are short, and its bill is long. It has no tail, and its wings are tiny, consisting only of several stiff feathers. The kiwi is the only bird that has nostrils at the tip of its bill. The bird uses them to smell food in the thick, wet forests where it lives. At night, it feeds on earthworms, insects, and berries. During the day, the kiwi hides.
There are two kinds of kiwis. The female kiwi lays one or two very large white eggs in a hole in a bank. The male sits on the eggs for 75 days, until they hatch.
Platypuses live along streams in Australia. They have webbed feet and a broad, flat tail that aid in swimming. The platypus uses its bill to scoop up worms, small shellfish, and other animals from the bottom of streams. Adult platypuses do not have teeth, but crush the food instead. Platypuses grow from 41 to 56 centimetres long, including a tail of 10 to 13 centimetres. They weigh about 2.3 kilograms, but seem heavier because of their thick coat of brown fur.
The platypus has claws on its front and hind feet, but the webs of the front feet can be extended beyond the claws. The platypus folds these webs against the palms when walking on land or digging in the ground.
Platypuses live in burrows that they dig in the banks of streams. The burrows may be as long as 26 metres. Except for mother platypuses with their children, each animal lives in its own burrow. During the mating season, the female platypus builds a nest of leaves and grass at the end of her burrow. Before laying her eggs, she blocks the entrances to the burrow with dirt. Female platypuses lay from one to three eggs at a time. The eggs are about 1.3 centimetres in diameter and have a leathery shell. Platypus eggs hatch after about 10 days. Young platypuses remain in their mother’s burrow for about four months and feed on their mother’s milk.
Koala is an Australian mammal that looks like a teddy bear. It is sometimes called a koala bear or native bear, but the koala is not related to any kind of bear. Koalas have soft, thick fur, a large, hairless nose, round ears and no tail. The fur is grey or brown on the animal’s back and white on the belly. Koalas are about 70 centimetres in length and weigh 7 to 14 kilograms.
Koalas have sharp, curved claws, long toes and a strong grip. They spend nearly all their time in trees and come down only to move to another one. Koalas are most active at night. They sleep most of the day in the eucalyptus tree. Koalas eat mainly the leaves and young shoots of eucalyptus trees. Koalas that live in the wilderness rarely drink water. The word koala comes from an Australian Aborigine word meaning no drink.
Koalas are marsupials. The young koala, called a joey, is carried in a pouch on its mother’s belly until it grows up. It remains in the pouch for about seven months, suckling on one of the mother’s two nipples. It spends the next six months riding on its mother’s back.
At one time, koalas were hunted for their fur. By the 1920’s, the animals had been almost wiped out by hunters. Since then, killing of koalas has been prohibited by law. But the number of koalas has continued to fall. People have cut down eucalyptus forests for housing, resorts, and farmland. Many koalas are hit by cars. In addition, many of the koalas are infected by chlamydia, an illness that can cause blindness, infertility in females, and pneumonia.
What many people don’t know is that the eucalyptus contains alcohol, which gives the koalas a drowsy appearance.
Kangaroo is a type of furry mammal that hops on its hind legs. Kangaroos are marsupials, mammals that give birth to highly undeveloped offspring. The young kangaroos complete their development in a pouch on the belly of the mother.
Adult male kangaroos are about 1.8 metres tall and may weigh more than 45 kilograms. Female kangaroos are smaller than the males. For example, most female red kangaroos are about 1.4 metres high and weigh less than 27 kilograms. Only female kangaroos have a pouch.
Kangaroos have a small, deer-like head and a pointed snout. They have large, upright ears that they can turn from front to back. Most kangaroos have short brown or grey fur. Male red kangaroos may have red fur.
Kangaroos have large, powerful hind legs and small front legs. When kangaroos hop, they use only their hind legs, which they use together. Large kangaroos can hop as fast as 48 kilometres per hour for short distances. They can jump over 1.8 metres.
Kangaroos have long tails. A red kangaroo’s tail may be more than 90 centimetres long. A kangaroo uses its tail for balance when hopping and also for support when standing upright or when walking on four legs.
In general, kangaroos rest in the shade during the day and search for food at night. However, they may be active all day when temperatures are low. Kangaroos eat grass and small plants. They sometimes eat in large groups called mobs. Otherwise, kangaroos usually spend their time in small groups.
About one month after mating, the female usually gives birth to one offspring, called a joey. A newborn joey is only about 2.5 centimetres long. The joey spends six to eight months in the mother’s pouch. The female has four nipples, and older offspring often attempt to suck milk from them long after leaving the pouch.
Kangaroos have few enemies besides human beings and wild dogs called dingoes. Kangaroos are protected throughout Australia by laws that prohibit killing them. In some areas hunters are licensed to kill large kangaroos to protect crops or to provide meat, fur, and leather when the kangaroos are many.
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