5 animals you’ll only find in the Kimberley

5 animals you’ll only find in the Kimberley

Marsupials, a reptile, bird and bat—these five animals all call the spectacular wilderness of the Kimberley home. And you won’t find them anywhere else on Earth.

Rare, rugged and remote

The Kimberley covers an area twice the size of Victoria, and lies in the top-left corner of the Australian continent. It’s an ancient wilderness, one of the greatest in the world, and a place rich in endemic species—which are plants or animals only found in a certain spot. Scroll down to learn about the 5 animals you’ll only find in Western Australia’s breathtaking Kimberley region.

1. Scaly-tailed possum (yilangal)

Photo: Wyulda squamicaudata | Bruce Thomson
Photo: Wyulda squamicaudata | Bruce Thomson
Not much is known about the secretive scaly-tailed possum—called yilangal by the Wunambal people of Mitchell Plateau. Solitary and nocturnal, they are one of only three species of possum that shelter exclusively in rocks—hiding during the day in deep crevices in the Kimberley’s ancient landscape, and coming out to look for food at night. Scaly-tailed possums have no close relatives but are distantly related to Australia’s brush-tailed possums and the cuscuses of New Guinea.

One of the most unique and fascinating features of the scaly-tailed possum is the one they’re named after. Their mostly hairless tails are prehensile—meaning they’re able to curl around branches and hold on, helping support the possum’s entire weight as they feed in the trees—and are covered in rasp-like scales that help them grip. Scaly-tailed possums have also been recorded leaping up to one metre from branch to branch.

The female possums produce only one offspring per year, between March and August. Their diet mainly consists of fruit, leaves, seeds, roots and the flowering parts of plants, although they’ve also been known to feed on insects.

Scaly-tailed possums tend to live alone, on home ranges of approximately one hectare (which can overlap with that of another possum), and are rarely encountered by humans.

2. Monjon

Photo: Petrogale burbidgei | Bruce Thomson
Photo: Petrogale burbidgei | Bruce Thomson
Another elusive species, Monjons weren’t officially described until 1978. Like the scaly-tailed possums, these marsupials shelter within the Kimberley’s rocky crevices and caves during the day, and emerge at night to feed on grasses and ferns.

Monjons are the smallest of the rock-wallabies, with a head and body length of only 30–35cm, and weigh under 1.5kg. They prefer high rainfall areas with large rocky outcrops, making the vast, rugged landscape of the Kimberley (and offshore islands) the perfect home for them.

As is the case with all rock wallabies, the soles of Monjons’ feet are rough and grippy, allowing them to cling to surfaces even when it’s wet and slippery!

3. Yellow-lipped bat

Photo: Vespadelus douglasorum | Bruce Thomson
Photo: Vespadelus douglasorum | Bruce Thomson
Yellow-lipped bats are named for the colouring around their mouth, which may be a buff orange or light cinnamon. They occur in higher rainfall areas and are widespread within the Kimberley’s limestone and sandstone caves, such as the ancient Devonian reef system to the south.

It’s within these caves that the yellow-lipped bats roost in colonies of up to 80 individuals, and often alongside other species of microbats.

Little else is known about these animals, aside from their preference for hunting insects over streams and other open running water, and that the females give birth to a single live young.

4. Black grasswren (dalal)

Photo: Amytornis housei
Photo: Amytornis housei
Black grasswrens—or dalal to the Wunambal people—are small, black and chestnut-coloured birds with white markings and a long cocked tail. They’re only found amongst the large sandstone boulders and spinifex grasses of Kimberley’s northwest, with most sightings occurring in the Mitchell Plateau.

These birds are rarely seen, as they tend to hide in cool, dark cracks within the rocks during the day where they blend into the shadows, and their eggs and nests were only discovered by western science in 1998.

Black grasswren nests are dome or oval-shaped and constructed in clumps of soft spinifex. The nests are made of dried grass stems and leaves, with a small spout for an entrance and a landing in front. The female lays two eggs, rarely one, which are white with sparse dark markings.

Breeding occurs during the wet season from December to March, and the grasswrens mainly feed on insects and grass seeds.

5. Rough-scaled python

Photo: Morelia carinata | Bruce Thomson
Photo: Morelia carinata | Bruce Thomson
One of the rarest snakes in Australia, with the smallest distribution of any snake, the rough-scaled python is the only species of python with keeled scales. Keeled scales refer to reptile scales which, rather than being smooth, have a ridge down the centre, making them rough to the touch. These scales help the snake climb up sandstone and crevices.

Found only in the rocky valleys of the Kimberley, these sedentary animals spend most of their time tightly coiled in low, fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, often close to permanent freshwater—possibly as these are ideal ambush sites for them, visited by their prey.

The rough-scaled python is able to grow to around 2m (6.6 ft) in length, with markings that range from light honey to dark brown, providing them camouflage amongst the rocks and branches. Their pale blotches also become larger towards their tail, making the pattern appear reversed.

Like other pythons, these snakes lay eggs—usually around 10—and the females coil around them, keeping them warm until they hatch.