Kangaroos, Koalas And Wombats! Why Don’t They Live In Cities?

Sep 14, 2018

We'll learn about the kinds of animals that live in urban environments and the challenges they face! One young Australian listener wants to know why wombats, kangaroos and koalas hang out in the countryside rather than the city. Dr. Mark Eldridge from the Australian Museum Research Institute tackles that one. And we turn our focus to one particular urban dweller, the raccoon, with York University raccoon expert Suzanne MacDonald. She lives in Toronto, which has one of the most dense populations of raccoons in the world. She helps answer why raccoons eat garbage, how long they live and why they look like they're wearing masks.

"Why do cities not have many animals, like wombats and kangaroos and koalas? And why does the countryside have so many kangaroos and wombats and koalas? - Elsie, 5, Sydney, Australia.


There are several reasons that large animals tend not to live in urban environments. Dr. Mark Eldridge, a terrestrial vertebrate principal research scientist at the Australian Museum Research Institute, explains that humans have rearranged the landscape and pushed out the habitat large animals need.

"It has been replaced by shops and houses and roads, things that we humans have built," Eldridge says. "Our habitat has replaced their habitat."

"Even though patches of bushland and woodland remain in the city, they're often too small for large animals to live in."  Not only that, but cities are difficult for large animals to survive, and often dangerous for them, with roads and cars.

"In the cities, even though we don't have large animals, we do have lots of smaller animals that survive in cities. If you go to a park or your garden, you can find a great diversity of animals that live beside us. There are insects, spiders, birds, frogs and spiders and whole range of other species that have adapted to the altered environment that a city presents," Eldridge says.

Click listen to hear the entire episode and to learn why Toronto has SO MANY raccoons!