Australia has given the world much animal-related entertainment over the years (we love you, Steve Irwin), thanks to the fact that it's home to the deadliest snakes in the world, massive crocodiles, bull sharks and spiders the size of your face. Here's one my Brisbane-dwelling sister caught in her kitchen last month:
What we so often forget though is that Australia has an enormous collection of strange but spectacularly cute animals too. Koalas and kangaroos are famous enough that we're used to the fact that small, lazy tree-bears and giant, upright, hopping, be-pouched creatures exist. But there are a bunch of cuties that rarely get discussed outside of the Southern Hemisphere.
Take, for example, the echidna. Until the birth of two puggles (PUGGLES!) at Taronga Zoo last month, who knew these tiny squish-monsters existed?
When they grow up, these echidnas will have 7-inch long tongues, porcupine-like spines all over their bodies, and they will reproduce by laying eggs. Because why the hell not?
Then there's the bilby. Bilbies are what happen when God decides to combine kangaroo legs, a rat tail, mouse body and rabbit ears. You couldn't make it up:
These adorable marsupials (fun fact: their pouches are backwards so they don't get sand in them when they're digging) are endangered because, yes, humans do ruin everything.
Next up, there's the quoll, which, as you can see below, resembles some sort of spotted squirrel-weasel. Quolls are 15 million years old, eat lizards and birds, and come in six different species. We see you, quoll, you freaky little bastard.
The fun doesn't stop there! The musky-rat kangaroo lives in the rainforests of northeast Australia, is the same size as a guinea pig and enjoys fruit, seeds and being ignored by basically the entire world.
If you combined all of the animals above and stuck the face of a wombat on the final result, you'd end up with a quokka, which lives in southeast Australia and isn't at all scared of humans. In fact, quokkas are so into trying to hang out with people, and so darn irresistible, there's a $300 fine for anyone who accepts their advances. But how do you say no to this?
Now onto birds. If you thought emus were big, you've clearly never heard of a cassowary. (Don't worry. No one has.) These avian behemoths can grow up to six and a half feet tall (!) and run 30 miles an hour. They have billowy black bodies, weird turkey necks, dinosaur mohawks, rainbow-colored peacock faces and, oddly enough, cankles. They're shy by nature, but aren't above literally kicking people in the face if messed with. Thanks to that fluffy pillow of a body though, the cassowary retains a high level of cuddle potential.
Predictably, things stay weird under the water too, which is where the dugong comes in. Dugongs are vegetarian sea cows with snouts, forked tails and smiley, goopy faces. They are close to extinction because humans won't stop hunting them. Which makes almost no sense. Who would want to kill this doofus?
Why all these animals aren't more famous is a mystery, but you can't really blame Australia for wanting to keep them all to itself.