Longitude 131°
Fauna

Fauna

As its World Heritage listing details, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park contains distinctive desert fauna and many rare species of mammals, birds and reptiles.  Although appearing flat and uninhabited, the desert around Longitude 131° is alive and caters for many different ecosystems.

To encounter the native wildlife in their natural habitat is a special thing.  Spinifex grass, mulga trees, desert she-oaks and other hardy plant species provide food and shelter for an abundance of wildlife.  Honeyeaters feed from the bright flowers of grevillea, Red kangaroo or ‘Malu’ forage amongst the grasses and Desert goannas wait patiently in the shade of grass tussocks and rocks.  Some 21 species of native mammals, 178 species of birds, 73 species of reptiles and literally thousands of invertebrate species call the desert home.

Birds

Miititi – Crimson Chat
Bright blazes of red, often on the ground or perched on shrubs – these are usually miititi. When there are plenty of small insects and caterpillars to eat, these birds are prolific and very obvious. But they are nomadic and will move on when conditions are poor.

Piyar-piyarpa – Galahs
One of the prettiest sights of the Australian bush are the flocks of grey and pink Piyar-piyarpa wheeling across the blue skies. Piyar-piyarpa are a type of cockatoo and are seed-eaters, able to crack though seed shells with their massive beaks. Their looks and wild boisterous behaviour never fail to captivate.

Painted Firetail
Waterholes among the red rocks are the best places to look for these pretty little birds. Firetails are finches and therefore seed eaters that must drink. Small flocks fly down to sip water from the rocky edges of the waterholes. The brilliant fiery upper tail is most visible in flight.

Walawuru- Wedge-tailed Eagle
High above soars the magnificent walawuru, the wedge-tailed eagle. Look at its tail and understand how it received its English name. It uses thermals of hot air created by the desert heat to rise to great heights where its keen eyes scan for food. It preys on animals up to the size of small kangaroos by gliding down and striking them about the head with its massive talons. Yet despite their killing ability, walawuru prefer easier meals of carrion.

Aralapalpalpa – Crested Pigeon
Aralapalpalpa are common around the region. They feed on grass seeds on the ground and like most seed-eaters, must drink regularly. Unlike most birds that drink by dipping their beaks and sipping, Aralapalpalpa poke out their tongues and pump up the water. Listen for the metallic whistling sound of their flight.

Reptiles

Ngiyari – Thorny Devil
This lizard looks frightening but the spines, though sharp, are harmless. The only thing that need fear them are the several types of ants that form its diet. The thorny devil sits beside an ant trail and snaps up each ant that passes.  The Ngiyari can drink with its feet. It places them in a puddle and water moves up by capillary action along grooves to the corner of its mouth.

Tjakura – Nocturnal Desert Skink
Skinks are the most abundant of the lizards at Uluru-Kata Tjuta with about 29 species found locally. They have shiny scales and most will drop their tails when attacked. The twitching tail attracts the attacker, allowing the skink, minus tail, to sneak away. The tail later regrows. The Tjakura makes a burrow with an entrance under a shrub or grass clump. Unlike most skinks, it can be active at night.

Kuniya – Woma Python
Kuniya is a large nocturnal snake that can grow 2.7 metres. It lives in burrows on the sand plains and will take over burrows made by more efficient diggers – ones with feet and claws. Imagine trying to dig a burrow with no hands or feet and you’ll see why these snakes look for prebuilt homes. Kuniya suffocates its prey of small mammals with its coils before extending its jaw to swallow them. It’s not poisonous and not a threat to people.

Ngintaka – Perentie
At two metres long, the Ngintaka (Perentie) is Australia’s largest, and the world’s fourth largest lizard. Adult perenties have few enemies as they can defend themselves with a lashing tail, slashing claws, sharp teeth and a scary hiss! It’s a fearsome predator to small animals, seizing them with curved teeth and shaking them or bashing them against objects to kill them. Fortunately they leave people alone.

Liru – Mulga Snake
Liru means poisonous snake in one of the Anangu languages. Liru features prominently in the Tjukurpa creation stories. There are eight different types of Liru at Uluru-Kata Tjuta. Most are small and mildly venomous. But beware of the largest Liru, the Mulga or King Brown Snake. It is very dangerous. If it bites it hangs on, injecting large amounts of toxic venom. Mulga snakes have their place in nature, eating other snakes, rodents and lizards. They hunt by day and on warm nights.

Mammals

Tarkawara – Spinifex Hopping Mouse
Tarkawara, or spinifex hopping mice, are one of the animals most likely seen around the campsite at night. Their long legs, tufted tail and hopping gait are distinctive. Tarkawara are family animals, living in communal burrows. They like the cool damp underground air that helps them preserve valuable moisture. Tarkawara do not drink water but get all the moisture they need from the seeds and plant shoots they eat – strategies that help them survive in a harsh dry environment.  They are harmless creatures.

Mala – Rufous Hare Wallaby
The Mala is a small wallaby that lives amongst spinifex, digging trenches or burrows beneath the hummocks to escape the summer heat. Once common, it disappeared from Uluru and Central Australia after European settlement. Changing fire-burning patterns created unsuitable habitat; this, along with introduced predators, probably caused its disappearance. Anangu are keen to reintroduce it once the environment has recovered and introduced predators are controlled.  The Mala is an important part of the Uluru creation stories known as Tjukurpa.

Murtja – Mulgara
Although only the size of a small guinea pig, Murtja is one of the top predators of the spinifex country. It searches at night for prey of rats, mice, reptiles and large invertebrates. The young are carried in the mother’s rudimentary pouch or ride on her back when they grow older. Imagine being a mother and having to chase after active prey with that heavy load. Murtja spend their days in burrows with lined nesting chambers.

Papa inura – Dingo
The dingo is the largest land predator in Australia. Scientists believe it descends from Asian dogs arriving in Australia about three and a half thousand years ago, possibly on boats of Asian travellers. It became a camp dog for Aborigines and also spread into the wild. Papa inura is a hunter but also scavenges dead animals and even feeds on insects and plants. Papa inura cannot bark but their howls sometimes penetrate still desert nights.

Wayuta Brush-tailed Possum
Many Australian city dwellers know brush-tailed possums. They like to nest in tree hollows or house roofs, but both of these are in short supply at Uluru. Wayuta once lived here in the few large trees, in caves and even in termite mounds, but they have now disappeared. As they are an important Tjukurpa animal, Anangu and Parks Australia hope to reintroduce them.

Malu – Red Kangaroo
The enduring symbol of Australia is the kangaroo. The deserts of Australia have the largest – the Malu – with males two metres long from nose to tail tip. They bound across the open plains. At a top speed of about 60 kilometres an hour a big red male can leap eight metres horizontally and three metres vertically. Hopping is actually an efficient way of travelling. Try it – but for best results you would need the long legs, the balancing tail and the rhythm of a kangaroo. Females are smaller and often a blue-grey colour.

Invertebrates

Minga – Ants
While mammals, reptiles and birds may be hard to see, ants are everywhere. They often have well-travelled trails. No one knows exactly how many species live Australia’s arid zone but they probably number in the thousands. Like termites, they’re an important part of the desert ecosystem. They are a source of food for some animals, such as the Ngiyari (thorny devil) and Tjilkamata (echidna), and they, like termites, aerate and turn over the soil. Some species help to spread seeds.

Blowfly
Flies have a bad name. They can be annoying, but they do have their place in decomposing expired animals and other matter. Flies also provide food for many other animals. And some are even pretty. Look closer next time.

Katydid
Katydids are often heard but not seen. As they are a good meal for other animals, they employ camouflage to match their favourite food plants. Related to grasshoppers, if discovered they can jump with strong hind legs. Their strong plant-cutting jaws are a last line of defence, at least against spiders and other animals their own size.

Longitude 131° offers a transcendent experience of discovery

Timeless and enriching, Longitude 131° overlooks the dual World Heritage listed wilderness of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

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Did you know...

Uluru is 348 metres at its tallest point: 43 metres higher than Sydney Tower, 24 metres higher than the Eiffel Tower, and just 33 metres lower than the Empire State Building.

 

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