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A Leadbeater's possum on a tree branch
Photograph: Gemma Ortlipp / Zoos Victoria

Australian animals you can only find in Victoria

Discover the critters that have also decided that Victoria is the place to be

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Written by
Nicola Dowse
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Here in Victoria, we’re lucky to live in a state teeming with wildlife, some of which you can only find on this side of the Murray. We spoke to Zoos Victoria reproductive biologist Dr Marissa Parrott about the animals endemic to our state. While Parrott says the state has everything from rocky shorelines and grasslands to wet temperate rainforests and alpine regions, we also have to be conscious of protecting them. "We are very lucky to have some of our native species, like birds, skinks, possums and gliders in our backyards, but we also have many endangered species with restricted and fragmented distributions," she says.

With that in mind, here are the native Austalian animals you can only find in Victoria – and how you can help ensure their survival for years to come.

Recommended: here's where (and when) to spot whales in Victoria.

Animals you can only find in Victoria

Leadbeater's possum
Photograph: Gemma Ortlipp / Zoos Victoria

Leadbeater's possum

All possums are cute, but the Leadbeater's possum might just be the cutest. This small possum was named after John Leadbeater – the taxidermist at Melbourne Museum when they were discovered in 1867. The possum is endemic to the forests outside of Melbourne and also holds the proud position of Victoria’s faunal emblem. The Leadbeater's possum is critically endangered, however (the tree hollows it lives in are threatened by logging and bushfire), and was actually thought to be extinct until rediscovered in 1961. Luckily, efforts are underway to save the possum. “Zoos Victoria is committed to fighting extinction for this possum, and Healesville Sanctuary is currently the only institution in the world housing Leadbeater’s possums in captivity,” says Parrott. 

Possum fact: Leadbeater’s possums are big believers in the nuclear family. “Leadbeater’s possums usually live in small family groups comprising a single breeding pair and their young,” says Parrott.

How to help: These possums like to live in old tree hollows, so opt for recycled toilet paper to minimise logging. Make sure to keep your cat indoors too, as they can prey on forest-dwelling wildlife. 

Helmeted honeyeater
Photograph: Zoos Victoria

Helmeted honeyeater

Unsurprisingly, Victoria’s other faunal emblem, the Helmeted honeyeater, is also only found within our state. These birds are pretty distinctive, with a bright yellow and black appearance (it’s a strong Hufflepuff fashion moment). Parrott says the birds are critically endangered, with habitat destruction being the largest threat. “They need to live close to water, so drought, bushfire, and competition from other birds also endanger their existence.” There are only around 200 helmeted honeyeaters in the wild – which sounds dire (and it is) but is actually triple the number that existed when Healesville Sanctuary started a recovery program in 2013. The birds can only be found in three locations in swamp forest east of Melbourne.

Honeyeater fact: “They have really beautiful cup-shaped nests that they bind together using spider web,” says Parrott. “In our captive breeding program, we collect spider web for them on sticks from around the sanctuary so they can build nests for their eggs and chicks.”

How to help: Like the Leadbeater's possum, you can protect the helmeted honeyeater by choosing recycled paper products and keeping kitty inside. 

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Baw Baw Frog
Photograph: Damian Goodall / Zoos Victoria

Baw Baw Frog

The Baw Baw frog lives on the plateau of Mount Baw Baw, where it spends its days eating worms, insects and lolling about in mud and leaf litter. While that sounds like a pretty good life (for a frog), this critter is also critically endangered. “In the early 1980s the Baw Baw frog was thriving, but recent monitoring indicates a 98 per cent decline in their abundance,” says Parrott. Fewer than 1,000 Baw Baw frogs exist in the wild – largely due to a disease called chytridiomycosis, which affects frog species globally. Melbourne Zoo has established an “insurance” population of frogs. “Thanks to advances in amphibian husbandry, we have been able to breed Baw Baw frogs in captivity and are now beginning to investigate reintroduction strategies,” says  Parrott.

Frog fact: “Dogs are helping frogs,” Parrott says. “Zoos Victoria has a special detection dog squad that is helping to find and protect these amazing frogs in the wild.”

How to help: Tell people about the Baw Baw frog! Many people don't know about the little guy, so raising awareness helps. As with all the animals Zoos Victoria is helping protect, you can also assist by visiting the zoos (when possible) and donating if you have the means. 

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