Australian Desert Animals

"They need to be able to survive with very little water"

It is surprising how many Australian desert animals there actually are given this area has so little water.

Did you know that 18% of Australia is desert? Can you believe that 70% of the country is classed as arid. This makes it the driest inhabited continent in the world.

The majority of deserts are in the middle and north west of the country.

The biggest is the Great Victoria Desert and covers western Australia and south Australia.. The Great Sandy desert is perhaps the most well known as Ayers rock is located on the southwestern side of this desert.

The desert is often referred to as the Australian outback, The Outback is more than just the desert. It is really just a way of describing the interior of Australia where there is limited built up areas and where the temperatures are harsh with very little rainfall.

It will surprise you that there are plants and shrubs in the desert and as such you will find some interesting Australian desert animals. It is also worth stating that these animals tend to look far more frightening than they actually are.

Unfortunately the introduction of animals such as the camel, rabbits and feral cats have led to the extinction of some native Australian desert animals. This is because these animals have started to compete for the native Australian animal’s food source and have unfortunately won.

The Lesser Bilby and Desert Bandicoot have already become extinct.

One way of getting to know some of the smaller animals is to take part in a tour. We did the "Breakfast at sunrise" at Ayers Rock. As well as getting the views of Ayers Rock as the sun comes up, they also bring a few desert animals which you can hold if you want to. There were a few snakes, blue tongue lizard and a thorny devil.

For more details go to Ayers Rock page.

Below are some of my favourite Australian desert animals and ones that you are likely to see if you venture into the outback or intend to cross one of the great Australian deserts.

Here are some of the animals that you will be able to see:

The Bandy Bandy Snake

This is a very striking black and white snake. They live underground but do come out from time to time particularly at night.

They are usually around 60cm in length and like to eat other snakes called blind snakes. They are very unlikely to attack humans. Whilst they do have venom glands, they don’t carry enough venom to do any serious harm.

You are more likely to spot one of these Australian desert animals in central Australian deserts.


There are a variety of Geckos each species having their own colourings. These Australian desert animals are essentially medium sized lizards.

The marbled velvet Gecko is about 30cm in length where as the smooth knob tailed gecko is much smaller at just 10cm

Geckos tend to eat spiders, cockroaches or smaller geckos. They usually come out at night to find food. During the day they rest under bark, amongst rocks and crevices. The smooth knob tailed gecko tends to burrow itself underground.

They don’t actually have any eyelids so they use their tongue to clear any dust from their eyes!

The Perentie

The Perentie is the biggest Goanna in Australia and are usually about 2.5 metres in length. You will see these creatures around gorges or rocky areas and they are a fairly common Australian desert animal.

They tend to eat birds, mammals and other reptiles and particularly like rabbits. They eat like a snake would, eating their victim whole or in chunks as they are incapable of chewing.

They are believed to be very intelligent but not the sort of thing you would want to cross. Their tail can give a nasty whip and they make a terrible hissing noise if they are threatened.

Thorny Devil

A very strange but oddly cute looking reptile! The thorny devil is about 15cm long and lives in shallow burrows.

They live on only ants and can eat lots in one go as they have a short but very stick tongue. They manage to catch lots of water through their spikes. They brush up against dewy shrubs in the mornings and their spikes help to catch the water which then runs down little grooves right into their mouth.

They have an appearance that makes them blend in easily with their surroundings. They look like a rock!

The Bilby

This is a marsupial (it carries its babies in a pouch) and looks a bit like a mouse with very large rabbit ears. It also has a very lovely bushy black tail.

These animals used to roam the deserts but now are an endangered species. The only area you are likely to see them is in the desert northwest of Alice Springs.

The introduction of the fox has dramatically reduced the number of Bilbies. They like to eat insects, fruit and bulbs and are nocturnal creatures. During the day they prefer to stay in their burrows which can be up to 2m underground.

Their back legs are similar to that of a Kangaroo but they don’t hop. Instead they can gallop their way out of trouble.

The Camel

This is the animal you will probably be able to spot easily as they seem to wander the deserts of Australia and there are lots of them.

It is estimated that there are over a million in Australia probably making it the largest in terms of numbers, of all the Australian desert animals.

They can double in population very 9 years. They have become somewhat of a pest, stealing the food from other smaller native Australian desert animals The camel was first brought to Australia for transport through the centre of Australia. The first camel was brought over in 1822 with many more following throughout the 19th Century. They manly came from India and now due to cross breeding they are the only feral camels (returned to a wild state) in the world.

These days they are seen as mild pests due to the potential damage they are doing to the ecology of Australia. They have even been known to damage water pumps and toilets in their search for water during drought.

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