Click to enlargeAustralian Country Roadsigns

Australian Country Roadsign(s)

As you travel through Australia, a distinctive feature of the vast outback are the many roadsigns warning motorists of the dangers of wandering native Australian animals across the highway. These roadsigns are immediately recognized as Australian icons, and they are not found anywhere else in this world !

1. Kangaroos Next 14 km

The Kangaroo is one of the most recognized Aussie icons. It appears on the Coat of Arms and is used as Qantas’ corporate logo. It is one of the largest marsupials and is native to Australia. It can grow to an overall length of 94 – 95 inches (240 cm) and weigh over 130 lbs (66 kg). An adult male can cover more than 29 feet (9 m) in a single jump. It can approach a top speed of between 37 – 44 miles per hour (60 – 70 km/h). A collusion with a kangaroo will inflict a lot of damage not only to the marsupial but to the vehicle you are travelling in. Hence trucks, buses, utes (pick ups) and some private cars have a front mounted bull bar (‘roo bar) to protect the vehicle. Sadly, more kangaroos are killed this way (and pedestrians injured as well). Contrary to international opinion, you will not find a kangaroo hopping about in urban Australia!

To establish dominance over other males, male kangaroos box with each other to gain favourable mating rights with their female partners. The gestation period for a kangaroo is 9 months and joey (as baby kangaroos as called) stays in the pouch of its mother. Joeys are dependent on their mothers for food for up to a year.

2. Wombats Next 5 km

The Wombat is native to Australia and grows to a length of 39 inches (1 m) and weighs more than 18 lbs (40 kg). Wombats are sociable creatures and are usually found in groups. Like the kangaroo, it nurtures its newborn inside its mother’s pouch. Wombats live underground in burrows up to 97 feet (30 m) in length with several entrances. They are classified as protected animals as their numbers are now dwindling due to extermination by farmers.

3. Koalas Next 4 km

The Koala is not a bear but another marsupial unique to Australia. Its young are carried in pouches of female koalas. The koala is a small furry, cuddly animal but not too cuddly to pick up and hold since it has very sharp claws! These claws enable the koala to climb eucalyptus trees. During the day, koalas are inactive and is usually found asleep. During the night, it is more active in search of food. It feeds on certain types of eucalyptus trees and rarely drinks.

In size, it grows up to a length of 31 inches (80 cm). Like the wombat, the numbers of koalas in its native habitat is dwindling due to land clearing and urbanization.

The following items are not official roadsigns but are relevant to Aussie Culture!

1. Platypus Billabong next 7 km

The Platypus is a most unusual animal that lives in underwater burrows dug in rivers and streams. It has a long duck bill, webbed feet and a streamlined body for swimming. It can stay underwater for several minutes at a time. It is claimed that its sensitive bill detects minute electrical currents which helps with gathering food. Platypus feed on shrimps, insect larvae, frogs, worms and other small animals. Males have poisonous spurs on its rear legs that can kill a dog. Sadly, as with the other marsupials, numbers are dwindling due to urbanization and water pollution.

2. Tasmanian Devil next 10 km

The "Tassie Devil" is an extinct marsupial only found in Tasmania. It is made famous by the Warner Brothers cartoon character Tas Devil.

This small animal grows up to 23 inches (60 cm) in length and can have a tail of 12 inches (30 cm). Tas devils are fierce, fouled tempered and frightening noisy creatures Like the koala, it is a nocturnal creature, sleeping by the day and active at night. They have powerful jaws and sharp teeth.

3. Emus Next 7 km

The Emu (pronounced ee mew) is the second largest living bird next to the ostrich and is found only in Australia. Like its cousin the kiwi (bird), it does not fly. It has glossy black feathers, a blue neck and helmet shaped feathers on its head. Its length is 6½ feet (2 m) and it can weigh up to 121 lbs (55 kg). Its top speed for short distances is 30 miles per hour (48 km/h). Their diet includes leaves, grass, fruits, insects and seeds. Emus nest in May or June out of nests made out of grass and leaves. The female emu lays 5 – 20 dark green eggs of approx 2 lbs each (1 kg) and hatch after 8 weeks. During this time, emus can be dangerous when roused since it is well equipped with a 5 inch (12 cm) long spike on one toe of each foot.

Today, emu farming is becoming more popular in the country. Its meat is claimed to be 97 % fat free and low in cholesterol. Its oil is claimed to promote healing of skin related problems. Unfortunately, at present there is no scientific evidence to substantiate these claims. On the local stock market, prices of emu related stocks have waned since expectations of the health benefits have not materialized.

4. The Great Australian Dunny outback 50 m

The dunny or loo is derived from the Old English word "hleow" which means a small shelter. In reality, it is the local slang for an outhouse toilet located in the backyard. Together with the Hills clothes hoist, BBQ and Victa mover, the Aussie dunny is part of Aussie heritage. It is usually constructed over a large hole dug into the ground.(before the advent of the WC although still used today in the remote outback where septic tanks/water supply is not available)

A timber and iron construction is then placed over the hole. The humble toilet seat was made from one slab of timber, the center cutout was used as a bread board! When the hole in the ground filled up, a new hole is dug out. The old one is simply covered up! Imagine finding one in the desert in the heat of summer where the temperature can be 120 – 130 F (50 – 60 C) !




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