2 Sept 2022
7 THREATENED WILDLIFE TO SPOT AROUND SYDNEY
Did you know there might be threatened wildlife living near you? Discover what animals need protection in your local area using WWF-Australia’s ‘My Backyard’ tool, and find out how well they’re being cared for.
When most people think of Australian wildlife, the first thing they picture is a kangaroo bounding across a grassy landscape or a wombat shuffling through the woodlands. But even lifelong residents of our busiest cities may not realise that all kinds of incredible native animals are closer than they think. Including Sydney – a coastal metropolis known for its picturesque beaches and sparkling blue harbour waters. The city’s grassy woodlands, lush rainforests and freshwater wetlands are home to a diverse range of threatened animals. But without better protection, we could risk losing them – and hundreds of other plants and wildlife – forever.
Here are 7 threatened animals living around Sydney:
Green and golden bell frog
What could be more Aussie than an animal that’s green and gold? Sydneysiders won’t have to venture far to track down this frog – listen out for their deep, droning croak in Sydney Olympic Park. They have some very unique traits, as they’re exceptionally large, active during the day and have unwebbed front feet. They snack on butterflies, crickets, mice, spiders and worms, so prefer damp vegetation-rich areas like coastal swamps, marshes, wetlands and woodlands. Green and golden bell frogs were once very common, but the destruction of nature, predation from introduced threats including fish, foxes, and cats, and a devastating amphibian fungal disease - chytrid - that arrived in Australia in the 1970s have left them vulnerable to extinction.
Recently spotted: Avoca lagoon, just an hour and a half north of Sydney, has become a refuge for green and golden bell frogs, where projects are underway to restore their habitats, reintroduce populations, and develop strategies to improve resistance to chytrid.
Giant burrowing frog
As their name suggests, giant burrowing frogs are giant, with powerful, muscular limbs made for burrowing, so spend most of their time under the soil in forests, heaths and woodlands. You might hear them before you spot them, as they have a distinctive, low-pitched ‘oop-oop-oop’ call, earning them the nickname ‘eastern owl frogs’. They eat mostly invertebrates, including centipedes, cockroaches, spiders and scorpions, move slowly and also grow slowly, living for up to 10 years. But their future and their habitat are at risk, due to catastrophic bushfires caused by climate change and landclearing for development.
Recently spotted: A magnificent giant burrowing frog was snapped above ground in the Blue Mountains.
Koalas are famous for their cute, cuddly appearance, large furry ears, black nose and long sharp claws. But did you know that newborns, called joeys, are so tiny, they could fit on your thumbnail? Or that their closest relatives are wombats, whose babies are also called joeys? Koalas are, undeniably, an Aussie icon, but we risk losing them forever on the east coast of Australia if their forest homes continue to be devastated by bushfires and the destruction of nature. Without enough habitat, koalas are forced to spend more time on the ground looking for food and shelter. This leaves them vulnerable to stress-induced disease, and exposes them to dangers like vehicles and predators.
Recently spotted: A pair of bushwalkers came across a number of koalas in the Sutherland Shire, which led to the discovery of almost 80 furry-eared individuals in the area.
Southern brown bandicoot
Southern brown bandicoots are often mistaken for rodents, but they’re actually ground-dwelling marsupials. Sydneysiders can find them in Ku-ring-gai Chase and Garigal National Parks, where they turn over the soil, searching for insects, plant material and fungi to eat. This behaviour is really helpful for their habitat, as it generates plant growth, earning them the job title ‘ecosystem engineers’. Southern brown bandicoots come from big families, with females having up to six young three times each breeding season…that’s a lot of babies! However, they’re very solitary and can be aggressive towards their own kind. It’s thought there were once 12 bandicoot species in Australia, but sadly, half are now extinct or threatened due to introduced predators.
Recently spotted: A fourth-generation southern brown bandicoot was trapped by ecologists at Booderee National Park – great news since they were reintroduced to the area six years ago.
New Holland mouse
The New Holland mouse looks a lot like the house mouse, but the beady-eyed will notice their eyes and ears are larger, and their tails are longer than their bodies. Or, if you’re close enough to take a sniff, you’ll notice they don’t have that ‘mousey’ odour. The native New Holland mice are omnivores, snacking on fungi, invertebrates, leaves and seeds. They’re also highly social, sharing burrows in forests, heathlands and woodlands. Unfortunately, these tiny rodents face many big dangers to their survival, including bushfires, predators and competition from other rodents, including their doppelgänger, the introduced house mouse.
Be one of the few to spot one: It is incredibly difficult to spot this elusive species, but head to Sydney’s Royal National Park and spend enough time quietly observing your immediate environment. And you could be one of the lucky ones.
The clue is in the name: brush-tailed rock-wallabies have a distinctive tail that’s long, flexible and bushy. It’s used for balance, along with their padded feet, which makes them confident, swift and agile, especially when climbing. You’ll spy them in rocky habitats, in the Blue Mountains and around the Cataract River. They live in colonies, preferring to shelter or bask in the sun during the day, and forage at night for flowering plants, fruit, grass and shrubs. Worryingly, predators, bushfires and the destruction of their habitat threaten their survival.
Recently spotted: More than 100 brush-tailed rock-wallabies live around Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains – an incredible feat of management, as the population in the area was once as low as six individuals.
Large-eared pied bat
The large-eared pied bat was discovered in the 1960s and is one of our most mysterious bats. They’ve been spotted roosting in caves, old mines and abandoned bird nests, including in the Southern Highlands. Not much is known about their behaviour, but it’s thought they hibernate in colder months and feed on small flying insects, and their short, broad wings suggest they are slow fliers. What we do know for sure, though, is we need to take action to prevent losing them forever, as the destruction of their homes and habitat they forage in has left their futures hanging in the balance.
Be one of the few to spot one: Large-eared pied bats are cryptic animals, but you might be lucky to catch a glimpse in forested areas within Sydney’s Cumberland and Pittwater regions.
Keen to know what other threatened animals make their home in your backyard? Discover what animals need protection in your local area using WWF-Australia’s ‘My Backyard’ tool, and find out how you can help.