Review: Australian Wildlife After Dark

The Book: Australian Wildlife After Dark
The Authors: Martyn Robinson & Bruce Thomson

Australia’s wildlife is notoriously cryptic. One could be forgiven for walking through a patch of forest during the day and spotting only a few bird species, and perhaps some mammals if luck strikes. Once the sun falls, however, it’s a very different story.

Chatter, shrieks and rustles resound as many incredible species go about their nightly routine. Some of them are familiar to us, many are not. Take, for example, the many species of microbat that are all around us throughout the suburbs, yet we hear the sounds of only one species – the white-striped freetail bat. Or perhaps the greater glider – what is it about this somewhat clumsy species that allows it to persist in our forests?

Australian Wildlife After Dark is unique. Not quite a field guide, not quite a textbook, but somewhere in between. Authors Martyn Robinson and Bruce Thomson focus on the adaptations that allow Australia’s fauna to exploit different ecological niches throughout the night. The authors go through these one after another, from sight and sound to some of the more unique adaptations (such as the electromagnetic sensors used by the platypus).

As is indicated by the cover image, the photography in Australian Wildlife After Dark is fantastic. Robinson and Thomson have collected some wonderful images, all of which help to illustrate their overarching point that Australian wildlife is uniquely adapted to take advantage of the time after sunset. Particularly impressive is the diverse assortment of invertebrate images and their respective adaptations on display.

An important aspect of this book is its high level of accessibility. The writers have pitched the text at a very broad audience, such that school-aged students and experienced naturalists alike will get something out of it. This is a rare feat with ecology and natural history texts, and will hopefully inspire readers to delve further into literature on Australia’s fauna.

Also useful is a final section describing some methods for seeking out Australia’s nocturnal creatures. Combining this with the detailed descriptions of the various ways these animals exploit the night, and Australian Wildlife After Dark makes for a great resource for any budding spot-lighter. Ultimately, this is where Robinson and Thomson have succeeded, constructing a book that is informative and accessible enough to hopefully inspire more people to get to know our unique wildlife.

This book belongs on your bookshelf if… you’re interested in learning about the adaptations that allow Australia’s fauna to take over the night, or if you’re interested in seeking them out in the Australian wilderness.

Head to the CSIRO Publishing website to purchase a copy.  

Cover image by Emma Walsh


Our Point Leo Mural

While many Victorians were soaking up the sun this past weekend, the Wild Melbourne team were getting creative on the Point Leo Foreshore. Alongside some eager Point Leo campers, we began the seemingly gargantuan task of projecting, sketching and painting a seascape onto the wall of an amenities block down by the beach.

If you are yet to visit the area, one of the first things you will surely notice about Point Leo is the strong community vibe that emanates from the newly built Visitors Centre, through the campsites, and down to the ruggedly picturesque foreshore. Cathy Cavallo, our resident artist at Wild Melbourne, hoped to capture this combination of community, nature and the pleasure of holidaying along the Peninsula in her beautifully designed mural. With a myriad of people lending a hand over the course of the weekend – including surfers, cyclists, campers, and plenty of enthusiastic kids – we were able to complete the mural before dusk on Sunday. As our first major art project, this felt like a near-impossible achievement.

It was even more satisfying to see the way in which the community at Point Leo came together to support us in brightening up a small part of this wonderful holiday destination. With children as young as five adding their own touches to the underwater landscape of seals, fish and sharks, the mural is now testament to the hard work and creativity of everyone who pitched in – even if contributing only one brush stroke!

We were also fortunate enough to experience some spectacular weather whilst we were hard at work mixing paints, teetering on step ladders, and depicting as many marine wonders as possible before the sun set on each day. To be outdoors and experiencing the amazing seaside that we hoped to portray was a fantastic addition to a weekend already complete with paint-covered hands, stippling lessons, and, most importantly, a finished mural.

View the time lapse above to catch a glimpse of the hard work contributed by all volunteers over the weekend – especially the creative kids who took the time out of their holiday to pitch in. A special thank you to the rangers and committee of the Point Leo Foreshore Park and Reserve for helping to make this happen! 

Threatened Species Summit

Next week, the first Threatened Species Summit will be held at Melbourne Zoo. The Federal Government has invited 250 environmental science leaders from across Australia to network and talk conservation.

The Summit will be held in Melbourne on the 16th July. 

The Summit will be held in Melbourne on the 16th July. 

Given Australia’s wildlife is in dire straits, this is an important set of discussions to have. However, governments are increasingly recognising the issue and putting some effort into halting species loss. Most recently, the New South Wales Government announced a partnership with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy to restore habitat and a raft of species in select national parks in the State. It’s initiatives like this, focusing on large-scale restoration, that are required across Australia.

This week, Wild Melbourne was able to chat to Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews about the Summit. He describes the Summit as being able to “…raise the national profile of Australia’s extinction crisis, mobilise new resources and partnerships, and kick-start the science, action and partnership-based approach to threatened species recovery that is outlined in the Threatened Species Strategy, which Minister Hunt will launch at the beginning of the Summit.” 

According to Andrews, the new Threatened Species Strategy is a line-in-the-sand moment for Australian conservation: “Clearly, ‘business as usual’ for threatened plants and animals in Australia would mean more extinctions. Our threatened species deserve no less, and by working on the basis of science, focusing on practical action, and partnering with state and territory governments and the community, it’s possible.”

The impacts of feral cats on our native animals will be a significant focus of both the Summit and the Strategy. Here, a feral cat carries off its dinner for the night, a bandicoot. Photo: Billy Geary

The impacts of feral cats on our native animals will be a significant focus of both the Summit and the Strategy. Here, a feral cat carries off its dinner for the night, a bandicoot. Photo: Billy Geary

The Strategy will focus on community action and partnerships, following from Andrews’ work across Australia over the past year: “My office and I have reached out to the community, forged partnerships and worked collaboratively with all levels of government, scientists, ‘Friends of’ groups, the non-profit sector and industry to secure more resources, build innovative approaches, encourage better coordination of conservation efforts, share information and promote action. I have been particularly humbled, but also enthused by the effort and care that so many Australian communities have for our unique animals and plants.”

Importantly, the Summit and the release of the new Strategy will thrust the plight of Australia’s threatened species into the national spotlight. As the Commissioner told Wild Melbourne, “our threatened animals and plants are ours to protect and we all have a role to play.”

The Threatened Species Summit promises to be an interesting day of discussion that the public will be able to follow online by webcast on the Threatened Species Commissioner’s website and via the official Summit hashtag on Twitter: #TSsummit