Joseph Banks, the naturalist, who went with Cook to the South Seas in the 1760s was busy collecting botanical specimens when he saw a very unusual creature. It was large, brown and hopped along on strong hind legs. He learned from the natives that it was called a ‘Kangaroo’. This was but one of the many strange animals and birds that the early explorers discovered in Australia and which did not exist in any other country. The most attractive of these is the Koala. Indeed, there was a time when Koalas had nearly become extinct, but the species is now protected. Another animal that nearly suffered a similar fate is one of nature’s jokes – the Duckbilled Platypus. This has the beak of a duck, a beaver’s tail and lays eggs! It was hunted for a long time for its beautiful fur, but now, like the Koala, it is fully protected. More strange animals belong to the Possum family. Some of these have skin between their front and hind legs which enables them to take gliding leaps from branch to branch. Wombats, Wallabies and Bandicoots are other unusual animals that started and delighted the first white men who saw them, as did Australia’s unique birds, including the Emu, Cassowary and the Lyrebird.
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