Wildlife of the Ningaloo
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Wildlife of the Ningaloo

Wildlife of the Ningaloo

There is an abundance of wildlife, considering the harsh dry conditions. A variety of plants, birds, marsupials, reptiles, other mammals and fishes inhabit Exmouth and the Cape Range National Park.


The flora of the Cape Range Peninsula is incredibly diverse with over 630 plant species recorded. It is much more diverse than similar arid and semi-arid areas in Western Australia and is known to have twice as many species as other similar areas within the same biogeographic region.

Many species in the Cape Province are at the end of their geographic range and are hence considered extremely important from an ecological perspective. The peninsula is also a region of biogeographic overlap and therefore has a diversity of species from temperate, arid and tropical botanical provinces.


The Emu is the largest bird native to Australia and can reach up to 2m in height. Emus are a common sighting around Exmouth and the National park, often spotted strolling down the streets during the hottest months.

After breeding, the male does most of the incubation, losing significant weight during this time as he does not eat. The eggs hatch after around eight weeks, and the young are nurtured by their fathers. They reach full size after around six months, but can remain with their family until the next breeding season half a year later.

Emus can travel great distances and, if necessary, can sprint at 50 km/h (31 mph).   Emus use their strongly clawed feet as a defence mechanism. Their legs are among the strongest of any animal, allowing them to rip metal wire fences.

Emus can live between 10 and 20 years in the wild and are pre-dated by dingos, eagles and hawks. They can jump and kick to avoid dingos, but against eagles and hawks, they can only run and swerve.


Other common birds around the Cape Rage and Exmouth include; the Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Fairy Tern,  Gallah, Cockatoo, Osprey, Miner, Brahminy Kite, Spotted Harrier, Australian Bustard, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Honey eater White-breasted Woodswallow and many more!

Check out birdlife.org.au for a full comprehensive guide.


Black-footed Rock Wallaby. These little guys can be seen all year round hidden within the sheer gorge walls at Yardie creek  within the Cape Range National Park.

Kangaroo. The Red Kangaroo and Euro – Common Wallaroo are often found in this area.  The Red Kangaroo is the largest of all Kangaroos and in fact the largest mammal to native Australia. Watch out when travelling on the roads in the National Park as Kangaroos and Wallaroos are prolific between dusk and dawn.

Whales and Dolphins

The cetacean order of mammals includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. These are then members of one of two suborders – the toothed whales or the baleen whales. The Ningaloo area plays host to six species of toothed whales and eight species of baleen whales (ATA Environmental, 2000).

The baleen whales are generally sighted in the deeper waters of the Ningaloo coastline (ATA Environmental, 2000). Five of the eight species of baleen whales found in the region are listed as rare or likely to become extinct (ATA Environmental, 2000).

Humpback Whales are the fifth largest of the great whales.  They can reach 18 metres and weigh up to 40 tonnes. Humpback whales migrate twice annually through the Ningaloo Marine Park waters, other frequenters of the Ningaloo area include the minke, southern right and blue whales.

The majority of the dolphins found in Ningaloo Marine Park and Exmouth Gulf are bottlenose dolphins, however there are many sightings of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin and Spinner dolphins.  The density of dolphins in the Ningaloo and Exmouth Gulf area is comparable to the densities found in the Great Barrier Reef and in Torres Strait (Preen et al, 1997)


There are four species of turtle found in the waters of the Ningaloo  and Exmouth Gulf. These are the Loggerhead, Green, Hawkesbill and Leatherback turtle.

Many turtles throughout the world have become endangered.  While this is still the case for turtles in the Ningaloo, it has been found that the density of turtles in the Ningaloo Marine Park exceeds the highest densities of turtles that have ever been recorded in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park area.  This high density has partially been attributed to the particularly clear waters of the area.


During November to March the turtles can often been seen nesting on the beaches and then hatching and making their way back to the sea!

Manta Rays

Like whale sharks, manta rays are filter feeders and have large toothless mouths which they use like a sieve to scoop up plankton and krill.

There are two species of Manta, in both species their wingspans measure several metres, with the larger species (Manta birostris) reaching 7 metres.  This size enables  the Manta to swim at rapid speeds, occasionally leaping out of the water and landing with a slap. Unlike stingrays, manta rays do not have a sharp barb, making them very safe to swim with.