By Cristy Burne
NEXT time it rains, head for the bush and you might discover something truly incredible, says James Faris, a ranger with NSW Parks and Wildlife.
If you’re in the right place, you might spot Australia’s giant pink slug. It’s found only in the misty highlands of Mount Kaputar National Park near Narrabri in northern New South Wales. And only when it’s raining.
“As soon as the cloud breaks and the rain stops, the slugs are gone,” says Mr Faris. “When it’s really pouring, I might’ve seen a couple of hundred slugs just by walking around.”
Hot pink mystery
Seeing is believing
* Dawsons Spring – along the nature trail near the campground
* West Kaputar Rocks – just on the side of the road
Scientists are studying the slugs, but there’s still much we don’t know, including how many there are, their habits, their requirements, and why they’re such a vivid pink.
“If you think of the brightest, pinkest fluoro marker you can get, they’re that pink,” says Mr Faris.
An endangered species, the slugs breathe through a hole on their back, and can grow up to 20 centimetres long and two centimetres thick.
“You’d fit one on the palm of your hand quite comfortably,” he says. “I’ve never been that game. There’s a lot of slime and stuff, and you’d imagine pink’s a fairly strong warning colour.”
For the best slug-spotting you’ll need your wet weather gear. Look on tree trunks or rocks where the slugs go to feed. If you can’t spot one, you might see where they’ve been.
“They’ll leave a distinctive feeding trail, especially on the smooth-barked gums, like little horseshoe-shaped bite marks, going up the tree,” says Mr Faris.
These slugs like it wet: more than a metre of rain falls on the upper ranges of Mount Kaputar. However, the slugs are at risk from climate change.
“They can’t really move,” says Mr Faris. “If their habitat is slowly shrinking, like a lot of alpine habitats around the world, then it won’t be sustainable.”