Australia: Beautiful and Bizarre

The ranchlands of the driest inhabited continent on earth stretch across the big screen in the new movie Australia. The gorgeous scenes from Oz stuck with me after the credits rolled and reminded me of the land and its wildlife’s exotic allure. Some of the most notable animals from Australia weren’t featured in the film, but they have graced the pages of past Audubon issues.

The cassowary, an enormous bird with a colorful neck and a casque protruding from its head, can be found in the coastal wet forest of Australia. The remaining 1,200 to 2,500 are suffering from desertification, as Brendan Borrell reported earlier this year (“Who Knew, Emu,” May-June).


Reeling from the only known communicable cancer, Tasmanian devil populations have plummeted in recent years, but new behaviors and actions taken by interest groups may help them survive. Warner Brothers partnered with Tourism Tasmania to raise money for the fearsome furballs, reported Todd Neal (“Devil in Danger,” September-October 2007). The animals also seem to be breeding earlier, reported Jess Leber, which could increase the population, she wrote on The Perch.


“The precocious breeding response gives female devils a chance to have one litter, though they often don’t live to raise these offspring. Researchers think that early breeding may help prolong the lifeline of the species, but are not hopeful that this evolutionary strategy will be enough without some help,” she writes.

Take a tour of the Northern Territory’s desert, coasts, and rivers with Rene Ebersole in “The Original Oz” (July-August 2006). “The desert is a stunning panorama—a layer cake of terra-cotta sand, topped with grasses in every shade of green, from celadon to teal, azure sky, and white icing clouds,” she explains.


Whether it’s in a movie or in a narrative, Australia and its striking landscape filled with foreign creatures is reason for anybody with even a touch of wanderlust to consider making the trip (especially with Hugh Jackman).

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