When Alfred Russel Wallace went to Indonesia and studied biology, he noticed that marsupials lived in the Eastern Islands (Australia, New Guinea, Sulawesi, Makulu Islands, North Makulu Islands, The Spice Islands, and East and West Nusa Tenggara,) while placental Mammals lived in the Western Islands (Java, Bali, Sumatra, Borneo, The Philippines, and Mainland Asia). However, I know that humans created trading empires that traded with both the Eastern Islands and the Western Islands, so there should have been animals that were traded. Domestic animals in Eurasia would have been traded for nutmeg in the Spice Islands, and rulers would have bought kangaroos and other marsupial animals to put in their zoos. The Majapahit Empire controlled much trade and was in charge of the nutmeg trade. They traded with Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara, and Papua New Guinea. In fact, the Coins from the Kilwa Sultanate in East Africa have been found from the year 900!! With all this connection, some animals must have been exchanged. Were there any animals that were found on the eastern Islands and the western Islands? The theory we were taught makes me think that there was no trade between the islands and that Indonesia was always a primitive state, but this is not true. The Indian Ocean trade was THRIVING, and the Indian Ocean was definitely well explored. Australia was KNOWN to Indian Ocean sailors. So, can you please help me?

Check out Extra Credits' videos on the Majapahit Empire.

In addition, Eurasian diseases were experienced by Northern Aboriginals, but not the South. Since Australia was not connected, the Eurasian diseases killed half of the northern isolated tribes and immunified the other half. Then, the disease could not continue spreading through Australia, so it had to kick the bucket in Australia, which is why South Aboriginals were vulnerable to Eurasian diseases when the British arrived. However, the north did have diseases.

Check out my answer on this post to see why isolated communities can't spread a disease.

Edit: I understand that colonization/trade with Northern Australia would not have been very beneficial, but Australia has many rare metals, including silver, gold, iron ore, and much more. Like Mali and the Swahili Coast, could these resources have been extracted? Probably not, as Mali had a fertile South and extremely smart traders in the North to learn from. The Swahili Coast was a combination of Arabs and Africans, and they could extract their gold due to

  1. Superior Arab Technology: This could allow easier mining and conquest of inland Africans so they could help get the resources. This also meant that they had technology
  2. Routes to India: They had somewhere to sell it to, so there was more of a need. As for Northern Australia, they have the resources just like Mali or the Swahili coast. They could have connections to the Majapahit or other smart Indonesians, just like for the Swahili Coast had India and the Malians had North Africans. Finally, just like the Swahili Coast, they could have superior Indonesian technology against the native Australians, so the native Australians could be conquered and put to work. As for arable land, they could do what the Mali Empire did for salt: trade. Java, a major rice producer, could have easily sold their rice in exchange for gold.

So, was there this form of trade? We don't know, but seeing as there were so many Kilwan coins in Australia, it seems true. Was it as flourishing as the Mali or Swahili coast? Probably not, as they had more arable land, although they could have traded with Java for rice. If none of this happened, they must have at least been discovered, and that is a fact because of the Kilwan coins.

  • 2
    Interesting question. What's your basis for the assertion that "kangaroos were trades for rice"?
    – gktscrk
    Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 14:45
  • Rice was an export of the island of Java. I'm sure that kings and queens would have found kangaroos a special creature to put in their royal zoos. In addition, you have cotton from India, technology and books from the Islamic World, Metals, gold and slaves were from Africa, and Silk was from China. Not to mention spices in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. All the rich merchants knew of Australia but they did not go there often as all there was there was just a desert as far as they knew. They mostly went to the Northern Territory.
    – user44626
    Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 15:00
  • The last paragraph about diseases is interesting but a bit out-of-place, it may belong to another question rather than this one.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 15:20
  • 3
    The presence of Kilwa coins in Australia isn't evidence that "Kilwa Sultanate of East Africa had traded with Australia!", only indirect trade links.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 15:25
  • Makassan contact with Australia began in the mid 1700s and was limited to the northern coast.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 15:27

2 Answers 2


There are actually a number of placental mammals which can be found across the Wallace Line in Australia and New Guinea. The one which probably is most relevant to the question about deliberate human involvement in the process would be the dog (or dingo), which was most likely introduced and dispersed into New Guinea and Australia from South-East Asia by humans who found them useful in various ways.

The Dingo

The dingo (Canis familiaris, Canis familiaris dingo, or Canis lupus dingo) is a dog (Canidae) that is found in Australia. Its taxonomic classification is debated. It is a medium-sized canine that possesses a lean, hardy body adapted for speed, agility, and stamina. The dingo's three main coat colours are: light ginger or tan, black and tan, or creamy white. The skull is wedge-shaped and appears large in proportion to the body.

The earliest known dingo fossil, found in Western Australia, dates to 3,450 years ago, which led to the presumption that dingoes came to Australia with seafarers prior to that time, possibly from south-west Sulawesi in modern-day Indonesia. Dingo morphology has not changed over the past 3,500 years: this suggests that no artificial selection has been applied over this period.

The dingo is closely related to the New Guinea singing dog: their lineage split early from the lineage that led to today's domestic dogs, and can be traced back through the Malay Archipelago to Asia. A recent genetic study shows that the lineage of those dingoes found today in the northwestern part of the Australian continent split from the lineage of the New Guinea singing dog and southeastern dingo 6,300 BC, followed by a split between the New Guinea singing dog lineage from the southeastern dingo lineage 5,800 BC. The study proposes that two dingo migrations occurred when sea levels were lower and Australia and New Guinea formed one landmass named Sahul that existed until 6,500–8,000 years ago.


From Wikipedia


Wikipedia also contains a list of rodents which have made their way to Australia over the last few million years, although probably not as a result of deliberate human action (as the question seems to be specifically addressing).

  • Nice answer, though you should possibly add some narrative to tie it into the question.
    – gktscrk
    Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 8:09
  • @gktscrk Done. Thanks mate. Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 8:23

Because it wouldn't have done either of them much good.

Australia didn't house a settled agricultural society, with major population centers to trade with. Where it was closest to Indonesia, it was instead until quite recently very sparsely populated with roving bands of hunter-gatherers. According to McEvedy and Jones, there were in the neighborhood of 250,000 locals spread over the entire continent.

The land itself wouldn't have been great for Indonesians to colonize either. Their traditional crop package doesn't grow well in Australia due to various combinations of climate and soil issues. The Indonesians of course were no dummies, and would have happily colonized the useful areas of Australia within their reach, as they did the rest of Indonesia, were it feasible to do so.

enter image description here

Notice from the climate map above that only small northern bits of Australia had climate similar to the rest of Indonesia. Those areas however apparently have soil issues that make farming rice in them commercially difficult even today.

Although attempts to grow rice in the well-watered north of Australia have been made for many years, they have consistently failed because of inherent iron and manganese toxicities in the soils and destruction by pests.

It is also tempting to speculate that if such an effort at crop domestication could have worked, someone among the native Australians would have worked it out in the 50,000 years they have lived there. They aren't dummies either. The best they could work out was fish farms in the far southeastern (opposite) end of the continent.

The native fauna would not be particularly useful to an ancient Indonesian to cart off as well. They had their own domesticated animals that suited their purposes just fine. Even today with modern technology and population levels, no native Australian mammal species has been domesticated in any commercially important way. There is a brisk trade in kangaroo meat today, but its largely from slaughtered wild kangaroos.

  • 2
    Very interesting answer! However, I'm not sure you reason why you are focussing on agriculture while the question is on animal trade? This is more an explanation of why rice agriculture didn't take off in Australia (though it's a very good one!).
    – gktscrk
    Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 8:14
  • 2
    I was trying to focus on trade, and more importantly why there was none, which is based in (lack of) agriculture.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 12:49
  • All right, but it was probably discovered, just like how Siberia was discovered by the Chinese, just not used
    – user44626
    Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 13:26
  • 2
    @Manu - Oh yes. I believe we even have evidence that it was visited by malayo-polynesian peoples (and it would be surprising if it wasn't). They just had little use for the place, so said evidence isn't super obvious to the layman.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 14:34

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