It may sound surprising but one of the best times to visit Cleland Wildlife Park is after dark. That’s when the park’s many nocturnal residents are up and about.
While some animals are strictly nocturnal, like possums and bandicoots, others just seem to be more active at night.
Night walks are a great way to meet some of these cute creatures and learn more about them from an experienced guide.
Equally adorable during the day and at night, here are seven of Cleland Wildlife Park’s native night owls:
These little marsupials are some of the friendliest animals in the Australian bush and while they’re not strictly nocturnal, these guys are still up and at em’ overnight. Often confused with rats, they’re actually more like mini kangaroos. Potoroo mums even carry joeys around in their pouch.
2. Tasmanian devil
Both ferocious and cute, the critically endangered Tasmanian devil has the largest bite force to body size ratio of any animal in the world. It’s only slightly less powerful than a pitbull. They use their keen sense of smell to scavenge for food and being awake through the night means they’re no stranger to a midnight snack.
The southern brown bandicoot is nocturnal but can also be seen out and about during the day. Female bandicoots can have up to five litters of between two and three joeys every year, generally in the second half of the year.
Lurking in the dark and hardly making a sound, bats are true creatures of the night. While you’re getting your beauty sleep, bats are working as nature’s exterminators. They play a vital role in controlling insect numbers, eating about half their bodyweight in insects each night. At the top of the menu? Mosquitoes and moths.
5. Tawny frogmouth
Not to be confused with an owl, this bird has a clever method for catching insects at night. A tawny frogmouth will sit still with its mouth open, allowing the moonlight to make the inside of its beak glow. This attracts insects who fly right in. Despite its demure appearance the frogmouth’s hunting techniques are anything but. Larger prey, such as mice, are picked up and knocked repeatedly against a tree branch.
Snoozing in the sun is how koalas spend most of their day – in between munching on eucalyptus leaves. Did you know they eat approximately 10 per cent of their body weight in leaves each day? That’s about 1,000 leaves per koala per day. At this rate, each koala needs access to around 60 trees a year. You’ll often hear them at night growling and grunting, but it’s not a good idea to approach a wild koala. Despite their cute and fuzzy exterior, koalas will lash out with teeth and claws if they feel threatened.
Arguably the most common native night walkers, possums are the only marsupial able to thrive in urban environments – using sheds and roof spaces as makeshift tree hollows. There’s the ringtail possum, which lives almost exclusively in trees, and the brushtail varieties, that come to ground to feed making them a common victim on our roads. Both species are leaf eaters, and aren’t afraid to sneak into your veggie patch or fruit trees overnight to satisfy their bellies.
Want to see some of these nocturnal creatures for yourself? Book a night walk where you can get up-close and personal with these guys and plenty of others, including bettongs, kangaroos, wallabies and owls. You can pick a public tour with an experienced keeper, a private night walk for a more tailored experience, or splash out with the Indulgence Night Walk.
This story was originally published in October 2015.