Australia Earth’s Magical Kingdom episode 1 – Land : Asked to imagine Australia’s wilderness many people immediately picture its arid outback, but its landscapes are in fact surprisingly varied. Traveling from the peaks of the aptly-named Snowy Mountains – touched by Antarctic winds – to tropical Queensland we discover how animals have learned to thrive across the continent’s harsh and beautiful extremes.
We meet an echidna, a curious creature related to the only other monotreme on the planet, the platypus, that has the rare ability to lower its body temperature to endure icy winters. The Dryandra Woodlands south of Perth provide the last stronghold for a native marsupial that once ranged all across Australia. The charming, now reduced to less than a thousand individuals in the wild, survives on a diet of termites on the forest floor.
Elsewhere, where animals have been able to remain in their forest habitat, tree kangaroos can be found climbing along branches in the forest canopy alongside palm cockatoos, whose intelligence is comparable to that of dolphins. The male palm cockatoo, or ‘palmie’, breaks off sticks and uses them to beat out rhythmic messages to his partner.
Bird intelligence is taken to even greater heights, however, by the black kite. Gathering burning sticks and embers from bush fires, it drops them into dry grass to spread a curtain of flame that flushes out insects and small prey. Only in Australia have these remarkable phenomena been witnessed.
Australia Earth’s Magical Kingdom episode 1 – Land
Echidnas, sometimes known as spiny anteaters, belong to the family Tachyglossidae in the monotreme order of egg-laying mammals. The four extant species of Echidnas and the platypus are the only living mammals that lay eggs and the only surviving members of the order Monotremata. The diet of some species consists of ants and termites, but they are not closely related to the true anteaters of the Americas, which are xenarthrans, along with sloths and armadillos. Echidnas live in Australia and New Guinea.
The platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), sometimes referred to as the duck-billed platypus, is a semiaquatic egg-laying mammal endemic to eastern Australia, including Tasmania. The platypus is the sole living representative of its family (Ornithorhynchidae) and genus (Ornithorhynchus), though a number of related species appear in the fossil record.
Numbat – Myrmecobius fasciatus – is an insectivorous marsupial native to Western Australia and recently re-introduced to South Australia. The species is also known as noombat or walpurti. Its diet consists almost exclusively of termites. Once widespread across southern Australia, its range is now restricted to several small colonies and it is considered an endangered species. The numbat is an emblem of Western Australia and protected by conservation programs.