Australian Outback

Into the Never Never

As if the Australian Outback wasn't remote enough, the "Never Never" is the even more remote parts of this hot, arid desert region.
But as inhospitable and sparse as it sounds, it doesn't mean one should never make a visit to one of the driest places on Earth.

The Outback covers millions of square kilometres of desert throughout the Northern Territory, South Australia, West Australia and Queensland. The Simpson Desert is to the east, the Great Victoria Desert, Gibson Desert and Great Sandy Desert to the west, and the Tanami in the north.

Despite its great expanse, one will be surprised to see a great diversity of landscapes - rocky hills, flood plains, sand dunes and caves decorated with Aboriginal rock art.

The Outback is also full of very well-adapted wildlife that can handle the harsh conditions: thorny devils, bearded dragons, scorpions, death adder and fierce snakes, freshwater and saltwater crocodiles.
 
 Ayers Rock at sunrise, Kata Tjutu National Park, Australia. / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
Rising from the centre of the Australian Outback, Uluru (Ayers Rock) is Australia's most recognizable natural icon. This massive rock formation dates back 500 million years and is sacred to the Aboriginal people in the area.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
Thorny devil (<i>Moloch horridus</i>) making tracks in the sand, endemic to desert ... rel=
The thorny devil, one of the many unique species found in the Australian Outback.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

Desert survival

The thorny devil (Molochorridus) is a unqiue Australian desert lizard easily identified by the many large thorn-like spines that entirely cover its body and tail.

Despite its threatening name, the thorny devil is completely harmless. When frightened, it tucks its head between its front legs. It also relies on camoflage against predators by changing colour to match its environment.

In the harsh desert environment, the thorny devil has a most unusual way of collecting water. Deserts become very cold at night and when dew forms on the lizard's skin, thousands of tiny grooves allow the water to spread quickly over the lizard's body, finally making its way to the lizard’s mouth.

It also has curious food habits. It can sit for hours by an ant nest, flicking up one ant at a time with its sticky tongue. The desert species has been known to eat about 45 ants a minute!

Outback Facts & Figures

    • The Outback makes up about 70% of Australia's landmass, but is inhabited by less than 3% of the population.
    • The Northern Territory is home to UNESCO World Heritage-listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu National Parks, which preserve both natural and cultural treasures.
    • Uluru (Ayers Rock) is 348m high and measures 9.4km in circumference.
    • The Outback is extremely rich in iron, aluminium, manganese and uranium, and contains major deposits of gold, nickel, lead and zinc.

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