Fauna of the Australian Capital Territory

Fauna of the Australian Capital Territory

The Fauna of the Australian Capital Territory includes representatives from most major groups of Australian Fauna such as kangaroos, possums,
wombats, platypus, echidnas. Birds include the sulphur crested cockatoo,
blue wren and Kookaburra. There are feral animals such as cats, rabbits,
foxes, mice, rats, horses and pigs. Invertebrates including spiders, insect, crustaceans, snails, peripatus, flatworms, and nematodes are found throughout the territory.


The crustacea includes land slaters and five species of crayfish from the rivers as well as tiny freshwater forms.

The Murray River crayfish "Euastacus armatus" has an ornate spiny abdomen with four rows of spines, and two large white claws. Males have larger claws than females, and females have a fatter abdomen. The thorax has two rows of small spines. The animal can grow its carapace to 150mm long. It is found in the Murrumbidgee, Cotter and Paddys Rivers, but has been killed off by overfishing and heavy metal poisoning in the Molonglo River. This crayfish comes from family Parastacidae (freshwater crayfish).A red crayfish "Euastacus nobilis crassus" is found in the swamps on Mount Franklin and Mount Gingera. "Engaenus parvulus" produces a mound of dirt around the entrance of its burrow, which has a subterranean chamber more than 30 cm in diameter, and has it own pool of water at the base. This animal is only 5 cm long.

Also frequent in the ACT in small pools of water are the Dafnia, Copepods and
Ostracods. These are all very tiny.

Slaters (Oniscoids) are terrestrial crustaceans. "Armadillidium vulgare" is frequent in gardens, coloured metallic gray, and rolls up into perfect balls. "Porcellio scaber" and "Porcellio laevis" have also been introduced, and can be found in Canberra gardens.


Peripatus is found in the alpine areas and under logs in sclerophyll forest.


The most famous ACT insect is the bogong moth "Agrotis infusa", which aestivates in the
Brindabella mountains above 1300 m. It migrates through the territory in October and March. The bogong moth is attracted by bright lights in the city and creates a major nuisance during in its migration times. Aborigines used to eat the moths in the summer time, as they are rich in fat.

Out of the insects the flightless Perunga Grasshopper "Perunga ochracea", keys matchstick grasshopper "Keyacris scurra" and Golden Sun Moth "Synemon plana" (which is mouthless) are vulnerable or endangered.

There are more than 200 species of insects, but they have been poorly studied.

Sixteen species of termite inhabit the ACT. "Nasutitermes exitiosus" builds mounds and inhabits Eucalyptus woodland. "Coptotermes lacteus" builds clay walled mounds. "Coptotermes frenchi" infests living trees. All of these wood eating termites can eat wooden human constructions. A grass eating termite "Amitermes neogermanus" builds colonies underground.

There are 47 species of Acridoid grasshoppers in the ACT. "Bermius brachycerus" is found in reed beds alongside streams and rivers. "Urnisa guttulosa" is found on dry sand banks next to the Murrumbidgee and its tributaries."Heterojapyx evansi" is a primitive insect that lives in leaf litter in mountain forests.

Three species of ladybird live in the Canberra region. "Chaetolotis amy" is a glossy black colour with a metallic bluish green sheen. Adam Slipinski auctioned off the naming rights to this beetle in 2003 to raise money in support of the Canberra bushfires of 2003. Amy Meldrum's father bought the rights and named it after her. [Rosslyn Beeby:"spot the difference:Australian ladybirds hairy, furry, striped" in "The Canberra Times", September 16 2008 page 3]

Introduced insects have become pests. The green vegetable bug shaped like a shield, dark green and 12 mm long, attacks tomatoes and beans. Cabbage White butterflies, with their green caterpillars eat brassicas. Citrus butterflies have colourful wings - brown black, white, grey, orange, red and blue and eats citrus and choisia when a caterpillar. The
codling moth caterpillar eats apples and pears. European earwigs eat leaves and petals. Fermentation flies eat rotting fruit. The Queensland fruit fly can be active in Canberra in late summer, eating apples, stone fruit, tomatoes and capsicums. Mandatory controls apply to infestations. Mealybugs have white hairs covered with a mealy coating. They are up to 8 mm across and suck sap from many plants, especially indoor plants. The pear slug or cherry slug is a sawfly larva. The larvae cover themselves with dark glossy slime to make themselves unpalatable. They skeletonize the leaves of cherry, pear, plum or hawthorn trees.

Scale insects suck sap from plants, are stationary and covered by a flattened disk. The black scale is the most common nuisance. It secretes a white manna, that frequently grows a black mould, and attracts ants. The San Jose scale is a tiny grey dot that attacks trees. Plague thrips feed in flowers causing petals to brown. The greenhouse whitefly is a small aphid with white wings that attacks weeds, and broadleaf vegetables. The European wasp "Vespula germanica" has made an appearance in the 21st century in the ACT.

Other introduced insects include some useful ones such as bees "Apis mellifera", dung beetles, and parasitic wasps. Bees however can become a nuisance, and there are feral swarms.

The CSIRO has its Entimolgy division in Canberra and houses a large insect collection.


Introduced arachnids include Red spider which is actually a green mite with 8 legs. They have two spots on the sides. They suck sap from plants. There is another mite used as a countermeasure that eats this mite.The red back spider and white tailed spider are feared by human inhabitants of the ACT.


Rob Blakemore has identified the following exotic earthworms in the ACT:
*Aporrectodea caliginosa
*Aporrectodea trapezoides
*Eisenia fetida
*Eisenia (=Aporrectodea) rosea
*Lumbricus rubellus
*Octolasion cyaneum
*Microscolex dubius
*Microscolex phosphoreus
*Perionyx excavatus
*Amynthas rodericensis [http://bio-eco.eis.ynu.ac.jp/eng/database/earthworm/A%20series%20of%20searchable%20texts/Australian%20Exotics/Australian%20Exotics'%20Checklist%20_after%20Blakemore,%201999_.pdf Diversity of exotic earthworms in Australia - a status report.]



Introduced fish species have pushed out the native species from most of the ACT rivers. The introduced fish are carp, brown trout "Salmo trutta" and rainbow trout "Salmo gairdnerii. Angling is a popular sport in the ACT. However there are no fish farms. Oriental Weather loach "Misgurnus anguillicaudatus" has taken up residence in Lake Burley Griffin and the Cotter River, thanks to its use as a live bait.

Well known native fish include the Murray cod "Maccullochella macquariensis", redfin perch "Perca fluviatilis" and Golden perch. Lesser known fish are the two spined blackfish "Gadopsis bispinosus" found in the Cotter catchment; trout cod "Maccullochella macquariensis" which is probably extinct, Silver Perch "Bidyanus bidyanus" which has probably been exterminated by carp; Macquarie perch "Macquaria australasica" which is still found in the Murrumbidgee, Cotter and Paddy's Rivers; Mountain Galaxias "Galaxias olidus" a small fish.


In the dry woodland and sclerophyll forest the most frequent frogs are "Lymnodynastes dumerilli" and "Crinia signifera". At higher altitudes in wet sclerophyll forest "Pseudophryne bibronii" predominates. "Hyla ewingi" can also be found.The northern corroboree frog "Pseudophryne pengilleyi" has a dramatic yellow and black stiped appearance, but is very rare. A special breeding program is underway to save this frog from from extinction. This frog lives in high boggy country in the ACT and also in the Fiery Range in New South Wales.


The most common snake in the ACT is the brown snake "Demansia textilis". The Red-bellied Black Snake "Pseudechis porphyriacus" is found near rivers and can swim well. Those in the Gudgenby River do not have a red belly. Three other species of snakes are occasionly found in the ACT: the copperhead "Denisonia superba", tiger snake "Notechis scutatus" and death adder "Acanthophis antarcticus".

Lizards in the ACT include the bearded dragon "Amphibolorus barbatus", "Tympanocryptis lineata", and the blue-tongued lizard "Tiliqua scincoides scincoides". There are skinks such as "Lygosoma quoyi". The water dragon "Physignathus lesueurii" can be up to a meter long. The carpet gecko "Diplodactylus vittatus" is found under rocks in the highlands. Other kinds of geckos and goannas "Varanus sp" are rare.

Rare animals found in the ACT are the striped legless lizard "Delma impar" in tussocky grassland, the pink-tailed Worm-lizard "Aprasia parapulchella", and the grassland earless dragon "Tympanocryptis pinguicolla" found in grassland.


At least 290 species of birds have been recorded by the Canberra Ornithologists Group. The gang gang cockatoo "Callocephalon fimbriatum" is the mascot of the ACT. Some birds migrate through the ACT, whereas others breed as residents. Some birds have become pests. The common myna "Acridotheres tristis" is firmly established in the urban areas.


The mammal fauna is a subset of the southern coastal Australian Fauna. The echidna "Tachyglossus aculeatus" is found throughout the territory. The platypus "Ornithorhynchus anatinus" occurs in pools in the rivers.

Most mammal species are marsupials. The native cat "Dasyurus quoll" is very rare. The eastern grey kangaroo "Macrocarpus giganteus" reaches the highest population densities anywhere in ACT grasslands. This kangaroo is the most popular roadkill. The black tailed
wallaby "Macrocarpus bicolor" is common in the ranges. There is also a small wallaby with a long dark brushy tail called brush tailed rock wallaby "Petrogale penicillata" which inhabits rocky areas. . Wallaroos "Macropus robustus" are the secondmost common roadkill in the ACT. The brush tailed possum "Trichosurus vulpecula"is common and also lives in the city. The ring tail possum "Pseudicheirus laniginosus" is rare. The
sugar glider "Petaurus breviceps" is found in sclerophyll forest and dry woodland. The greater glider "Schoinobates volans" lives in higher altitude wet sclerophyl forest. The wombat "Vombatus hirsutus" is common in the high country and along river banks. It emerges from its burrows at dusk. Koalas do not live naturally in the ACT but may have done so in the past.

The water rat "Hydromys chrysogaster" occurs in streams. The smoky mouse "Pseudomys fumeus" is a rare rodent. The dingo "Canis lupus dingo" was extensively attacked during early European settlement but still survives in the ACT. Dingos and their hybrids howl rather than bark, and hunt in large packs. Bats also occur in the ACT.

Introduced mammals have become a pest. There are feral animals such as cats,
mice, and rats. Rabbits "Oryctolagus cuniculus" were formerly a major pest, but are at fairly low numbers. Rabbit warrens have been ripped or blasted. Also Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease is reducing their numbers. Foxes "Vulpes Vulpes" have been baited to reduce their population in rural areas. Horses "Equus caballus" occur in the Namadgi National Park and adjacent Kosciuszko National Park where they are called brumbies. ACT residents have opposed killing them. Pigs "Sus scrofa"live in the mountains and damage plants. They are hunted by dogs and humans, and are also poisoned. Fallow Deer "Dama dama" occur in the wild in fairly low amounts. Goats "Capra hircus" occur in the wild in low numbers. They are hunted by wild dogs. Dogs "Canis lupus familiaris" also live in the wild and interbreed with dingos. Wild dogs are trapped and baited on the edge of rural properties to protect sheep.


* [http://www.environmentcommissioner.act.gov.au/SoE/SoE2000/ACT/Indicatorresults/Nativespecies.htm Native species in ACT|retrieved 1 february 2007]
* [http://www.environmentcommissioner.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/12153/nativespecies03p.pdf State of the Environment Report - Native Species 2003|retrieved 1 february 2007]
* [http://www.environmentcommissioner.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/12145/pestanimals03p.pdf State of the Environment Report - Pest animals|retrieved 1 february 2007]
* The Canberra Gardener 8th edition, the Horticulture Society of Canberra Inc, 1991, ISBN 0-9500850-3-0
* Canberra A Nations Capital ed H.L, White Angus and Robertson, 1954, no ISBN chapter 9.
* A Field Guid to Crustaceans of Australian Waters, Diana Jones and Gary Morgan, pub Reed 1994, ISBN 0-7301-0403-6

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