January 26, 2011
If your Aussie friends seem to have a little bounce in their step it’s because today is Australia Day! Every January 26, all the states and territories of Australia commemorate the first arrival of British settlers. The holiday has evolved into a celebration of Australia’s independence from Britain and its unique diversity.
January 26 (which due to the time difference was actually yesterday in Australia) has only been officially recognized as Australia Day since 1994, but the citizens of that land down under are certainly making up for lost time with parades, concerts and fireworks. Not to be left out are our furry and feathered friends at the National Zoo. So we’ve gathered a few Australian animals that we like to think would be celebrating with their friends back home. Even though the weather outside is pretty brutal, stop by and wish our Australian friends at the National Zoo a happy Australia Day!
The emu has the proud distinction of being the largest bird at the National Zoo. But with great size comes great sacrifice. Emus, as well as ostriches, are ratites, which means flightless birds. With the firework displays celebrating Australia Day, this might actually be a good thing.
Australian Snake-Necked Turtle
What better exemplifies Australia Day’s celebration of a diverse population than the Australian snake-necked turtle? While most turtles retract their neck inside their shell, the Australian snake-necked turtle folds its long neck sideways into its eight-inch shell. You may want to keep your distance at a parade though. It’s musk glands emit a foul odor if they are caught or captured.
Named after a derivative of an Aboriginal language, the laughing Kookaburra will make sure you don’t sleep through Australia Day with its territorial song that resembles laughter. Nicknamed alarmbird, breakfast bird and bushman’s clock, the laughing kookaburra’s, “ha-ha-ha-HA-HA-hoo-hoo-hoo” chuckle is bound to light up any Australia Day party.
The double-wattled cassowary may weigh in at as much as 128 pounds but that doesn’t keep this flightless bird from running at speeds up to 30 miles per hour and jumping as high as five feet. Some native Australian tribes even believe the bird has mystical powers and refuse to hunt them. One look at the dagger-like claw on the inner toe of a cassowary and I wouldn’t hunt them either.
The kangaroo might be Australia’s most famous animal export but the tammar wallaby is essentially a miniature kangaroo, making it by far the cuter of the two. With its 12-inch tail and muscular back legs, the wallaby is built for jumping. They mostly feed on vegetation but have somehow figured out how to survive in places with no fresh water by drinking seawater and eating salty sea plants.
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