15 October 2009

More on Kangaroo Island

Owing to its isolation from the mainland, Kangaroo island has suffered less from the impact of European settlement and retains more than half of its native ‘old-growth' vegetation - a vast area of some 2,250 square kilometres. Similarly, the island has been spared the damage done by foxes and rabbits, ensuring the integrity of native bushland. The result of this is that the animal and bird populations have thrived. More than one-third of the island is Conservation or National Park and it has five significant Wilderness Protection Areas. So Kangaroo Island is a special and protected place.

It's about 150km from end to end, although the sealed roads go around rather than through the middle of the island. There are two camping grounds. One is at the western end of the island and the other is at Kingscote which is about 60km from the port of Penneshaw which is where the ferry docks.

The first day we went to the camping ground at the furthest end of the island. While we were registering we were told that there was a koala with a joey (all marsupial babies that have leftthe pouch but notleft Mum are joeys) in a tree just outside. Sure enough, there they were and, just as cute looking in the flesh as in pictures. We had booked earlier to go on a nocturnal tour that night, in a nearby wildlife sanctuary and there we saw many more koalas & joeys, kangaroos and wallabies.

Koalas were introduced to the island early last century and have done extremely well. They are reproducing so rapidly that a sterilisation programme has had to be put in place to control population growth. Because they prefer the young growing tips of the eucalyptus trees they can cause quite a bit of damage if left unchecked. The trees need time to recover but if there's too many koalas, they don't get time and eventually die.

After seeing the sealions,as described in the last post, we went to see the Remarkable Rocks which are interestingly shaped rocky obtrusions on a cliff top and then for a walk on a series of steps and boardwalks to Admirals Arch which is a large, spectacular sea arch.

The drive back to Kingscote was marred by a brush with a kangaroo, which bounced into the road in front of us. Even though we were driving well below the speed limit there was no time to swerve. There was a nasty 'clump' sound so we pulled up. Luckily there was no corpse. The errant pedestrian left some fur on the road but no blood that I could see, and s/he had vanished into the bush.

Australian wildlife in general has no road sense. We have seen many roos, wallabies and snakes that have become tucker for the crows and hawks. Australia's largest bird, the wedge-tailed eagle, has become much more numerous with the supply of fresh roadkill. We added one lizard to that sorry total, but have carefully avoided many others, managed to miss one snake and have pulled up in time to allow several echidnas to complete their crossing.

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