Meet the wildlife of La Trobe

Professor Michael Clarke who is the Head of School of Life Sciences, has been at La Trobe for 25 years doing research on ecology and conservation biology of birds, reptiles, mammals, fish and plants, particularly studying how bushfires affect the flora and fauna of Australia. Australia is full of fascinating animals and a lot live closer than we think – on campus, even. Here are some creatures you can meet on our campuses.

Echidna

Fact: Echidnas can live up to 45 years in the wild. Fact: La Trobe is 49 years old, so there are probably local echidnas who were around for the first lecture at La Trobe.

Echidnas have a reputation for being prickly (because they’re literary a ball of prickles), but did you know they’re also strong? They can lift two times their weight.
On hot days from August through to October, you’ll find Echidnas digging for ants around campus. According to Andrew Stocker, ‘Two or three times a year, we’ll get a call from a La Trobe Staff member saying: “There’s an echidna in such and such a place.” To which we say: “That’s lovely.’

Blue Tongue Lizard

Blue tongues are the bachelors of campus. They’re all about independence – leaving the family home after just a few days and living alone thereafter.

Like a lot of people that leave home too young, sometimes Blue Tongues have trouble with reliable housing. So we’ve placed purpose-built ‘lizard lounges’ (flat rocks with plants growing up around them) all around campus to help them out. If you’re ever visiting the Melbourne campus, you could look out for them along the Trendal walk and in front of the David Myers building.

‘They’re harmless,’ says Andrew, ‘unless you go and put your finger in its mouth. They’ve got a really tight bite.’

Eastern Grey Kangaroo

Consider this: Kangaroos outnumber humans in Australia 2 to 1. It’s in our best interest to treat them well—if they ever unify, we might be in trouble. Thankfully, they seem right at home in our Wildlife Sanctuary.

Like many undergrads, Kangaroos usually sleep most of the day and get active in late afternoon until the early morning. Eastern Grey Kangaroos are the most social of all roos, so it’s rare to see them alone—instead, they congregate in ‘mobs’ of up to 20.

Pobblebonk frog

If you hear a creepy banjo melody floating on the La Trobe winds after dark, relax: it’s not a bluegrass band that perished in a fire and now haunts the grounds with twangy rhythms. It’s the Eastern Banjo Frog, aka the ‘Pobblebonk’. This little guy’s claim to frog-fame is making a ‘bonk’ noise that sounds like a banjo being plucked.

You can spot the musical Pobblebonk near ponds on campus all-year round—although with their warty appearance, they’re often mistaken for common toads. They’ll make plenty of noise throughout the year too, but they get extra noisy during mating season (don’t we all?)

‘It’s only the males that make this kind of noise,’ says Andrew Stocker, Senior Coordinator at La Trobe’s Wildlife Sanctuary. ‘They’re basically screaming out, “Hey, I’m a sexy frog” and trying to get a girl frog to come and say hello.’

Jokes from our charming animals aside, the conservation of Australia’s flora and fauna is a serious issue. Recent numbers are alarming, with more and more species threatened. Australia has one of the worst track records for extinctions on the planet - 90 species of plant and animal are now officially extinct. Researchers like Professor Clarke are committed to increasing our ecological literacy: helping people get to know these amazing species whose homes are near where we live, work and learn, so we can work together to make sure they don’t disappear.

Have you met an amazing animal on one of our campuses? Post a picture of it and tag with #creaturesoncampus.

We're looking at the long term impact of planned burning on Aussie flora and fauna. Learn more