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photo: Jim Parke,
Healesville Sanctuary

Hydromys chrysogaster

The Australian Platypus Conservancy has recently initiated Water-rat Report, a community-based monitoring program for the Australian water-rat.  This attractive native rodent (also known as rakali) is the largest mammal to share the platypus’s freshwater habitat. 

 The Australian water-rat occupies an ecological niche similar to that of otters on other continents and has many otter-like traits, including a streamlined body, partly webbed hind feet and luxuriously dense, water-repellent fur.

Water-rat Report is modelled on the APC’s successful Platypus Care project:  reports of past and present sightings of Hydromys are being collected to learn more about the  species’ current status and distribution.

 Identifying Features and Behaviour

Water-rats are shaped for life in the water, looking more like a small otter than a barn rat:

³ Hind feet are broad and paddle-like, with webbing present between the toes

³ Tail is well-furred and thick (to help serve as a rudder when swimming)

³ Ears are small and can be folded flat against the head (for streamlined profile)

³ Muzzle is blunt with a thick set of whiskers (to help find food at night and underwater)

³ Fur is soft, dense, lustrous and water-repellent (to dry quickly and help keep the animal warm)



Based on anecdotal reports, water-rats will travel several hundred metres across dry land in order to dine on delicacies, such as pet food left out regularly on a back porch.  These animals also appear to have the rare ability to be able to kill the introduced cane toads, without falling victim to the toad’s poisonous parotid glands.

Social Organisation and Life Cycle

Apart from females raising dependent offspring, water-rats lead solitary lives.  The animals are highly territorial, marking their areas with a strong and distinctive scent.  Mating occurs in late winter to early summer, with juveniles appearing from September to February.  Females generally begin to breed at (or after) the age of 8 months, and raise up to five litters (though usually just 1-2) per year, each typically composed of 3-4 juveniles.  The young remain with their mother for about two months before leaving home.  It is believed that water-rats normally survive for a maximum of about 3 or 4 years in the wild.  For more information:- Visit the Australian Platypus Conservancy website……



Phascolarctos cinereus

Koalas are marsupials, like kangaroos and wombats. Unlike placental mammals, marsupials are mammals that give birth to very underdeveloped young that then complete their development outside the mother's body - often in a pouch.

 Adult koalas weigh between four and 14 kilograms depending on their sex and where they are from. Males are up to 50 per cent heavier than females. Koalas from Victoria normally weigh eight to 12 kilograms, while those from Queensland weigh between five and seven kilograms


Koalas have few natural predators. In the past, the major cause of death appears to have been dingoes. Young koalas may occasionally be taken by powerful owls or wedge-tailed eagles


Koalas don't protect a territory of their own. However, each koala does have an area of regularly used food trees called a home range. Home ranges vary in size depending on the nature of the habitat, but are usually less than three hectares in size

The koala's thick fur acts as a great insulator. In cold weather, a koala huddles in a ball with its back to the wind. On hot days, it stretches out along a branch. It may also seek shade on the ground or in non-eucalypt trees with dense foliage

Threats to Koalas

Many koala populations, including Phillip Island's, are under threat from habitat loss, dog attacks, and cars. As many populations decline, others, such as those on French Island, are at risk through overpopulation of their limited habitat. This leads to over-browsing and destruction of the trees, threatening the koalas with starvation. Below are some simple things that you can do to help.

Habitat loss is the greatest threat facing koalas. There is an urgent need for habitat conservation and restoration, including wildlife corridors to link isolated patches of habitat.

 How you can help

           At home

· Many koalas, including the one pictured, are mauled and killed by dogs. Don't allow your dog to roam at any time, and restrain it at
night if koalas are likely to use trees on your property.

· Fencing that creates difficult barriers for koalas increases the
likelihood of dog attacks and road kills. If you have high, smooth fencing around your property, consider growing trees against the
fence to give koalas an escape route. Even a piece of wood placed
at an angle against the fence could solve the problem.

           On the road

· Take extra care when animals are most active. Koalas are active
at night, particularly during the mating season between August and December. Other native species, such as kangaroos and wallabies, are most active at dawn and dusk.

· Take extra care when driving through well vegetated areas, especially those areas sign-posted for native animals.

· Be aware of the distance it takes to stop your car at high speed.

· Use high beam when driving at night and slow down if you need
to dip your headlights for other motorists.

· Don't drive if you are fatigued.

· If you do hit a koala or find an injured, sick, or dead animal,
please stop and help.

 Information on how to assist is available
 on the following websites








Adult water-rats measure up to
40 centimeters in length, from nose to rump, with a slightly short tail.  The colour of the head and back may be nearly black (with golden-yellow belly fur)

Water-rats are active during the day as well as at night.  The animals are perhaps more often seen swimming at the surface of the water.  It is also not unusual to see them running along the bank or among reeds or other vegetation, or sitting on a rock or log at the water’s edge, or in the channel. Large piles of clam shells or crayfish claws often accumulate at such platforms– the remains of many water-rat meals.

Habitat and Diet

Water-rats occur naturally in both New Guinea and Australia.  Within Australia, the animals occupy a wide variety of natural and man-made freshwater habitats– swamps, ponds, lakes, rivers, irrigation channels and streams– on both the mainland and in Tasmania.  They also inhabit brackish estuaries and sheltered ocean beaches, including some found on offshore islands

Water Rat...
Hydromys chrysogaster

photo: Jim Parke,
Healesville Sanctuary


Koalas spend approximately 20 hours asleep or resting, one to three hours feeding, and one to three hours grooming, moving from tree to tree, and during the breeding season, searching for a mate. Koalas spend much or their time resting in order to conserve energy to compensate for their low energy diet

 Koalas are found throughout the mainland of eastern Australia (see map)  Island populations, such as those on French Island, Phillip Island, and Kangaroo Island, have been introduced since the European settlement of Australia.

Map of Koala Habitats



The koala gets its name from an ancient Aboriginal word meaning "no drink" because it receives over 90% of its hydration from the Eucalyptus leaves (also known as gum leaves) it eats, and only drinks when ill or times when there is not enough moisture in the leaves. ie during droughts etc