No worries – Australia, part 1

North Queensland, Daintree and Cape Tribulation 1.

Queensland was on my travel-list for a while – mostly because there is a small patch of rainforest in the northern cornern of Queensland – Daintree National Park – which meets the Great Coral Reef. Daintree is part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Site and is said to be housing the oldest rainforest on the planet. Since during the summer months this area can experience extremely immense rainfall, winter seemed to be a better option for a visit.

After landing in Cairns on July 6th, and taking a bus up north, I spent the first three weeks at Crocodilus Village, close to Cow Bay. The small huts were overshadowed by some big trees and it felt like being deep inside the forest (even though there was a paved road and a cattle ranch on the other side of it). The beach is around 3 kms away – an easy, 45 minutes walk.

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A short trip to Mossman Gorge, which is located at the southern part of the Daintree Forest, provided some opportunities for crocodile-free swimming. The water is quite cold but after all the warning signs – like this

14203304_10210188898663200_2663781809556116749_naround all the beaches it is quite comforting to know that in this fast flowing creek there are no crocodiles. Many tourists take advantage of a cool dip on a warm winter day.

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The forest around the Discovery Center has a short wooden walkway and also a muddy trail, around three kms long. It is worth getting off the “wooden track” and get deeper into it.

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Just staying close to the Village accommodation can provide some excitement – like bumping into a cassowary:

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A  spectacular sunset from behind the Crocodylus Village:

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However, it is a disheartening discovery that the forest is quite inaccessible. There are no marked trails, except around the discovery center – one wooden pathway and a short muddy trail into the hills.

During my night walks I only met a few animals – one of them was this green frog:

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But to be more exact, there is one species that you can find – unfortunately – almost everywhere at night – the cane toad.

Cane toads are a perfect example of feral (or invasive) species –  alongside the feral pigs  – and of the unintended harmful consequences when humans try to manipulate nature.

A short side-note from National Geographic about cane toads:

“The much maligned venomous cane toads earned their bad reputation shortly after being released into the Australian ecology in 1935 with the hope that they would control the destructive cane beetle population. They turned out to be failures at controlling beetles, but remarkably successful at reproducing and spreading themselves.

About 3,000 cane toads were released in the sugarcane plantations of north Queensland in 1935. They now number well into the millions, and their still expanding range covers thousands of square miles in northeastern Australia. They are considered pests, and government eradication efforts include asking residents to help collect and dispose of them.

Cane toads are large, stocky amphibians with dry, warty skin, and are native to the southern United States, Central America, and tropical South America. Their numbers are manageable in their natural range, but they have thrived in Australia because there are few natural predators, they breed easily, and they have abundant food, including pet food, which they steal from feeding bowls left outside of homes.

Their effects on Australia’s ecology include the depletion of native species that die eating cane toads; the poisoning of pets and humans; depletion of native fauna preyed on by cane toads; and reduced prey populations for native insectivores, such as skinks.

Cane toad venom is a mix of toxins that primarily affects the functioning of the heart. It is present throughout their bodies and is secreted as a milky liquid from the parotoid glands located over the toad’s shoulders. Envenomation is painful, but rarely deadly to humans, although some people have died from eating cane toads and even their eggs.” (http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians/cane-toad/)

 

As locals in the Daintree area has pointed it out, cane toads and feral pigs had “emptied out” the forests.

Feral pigs are the descendants of the pigs brought in from Europe at the end of 17th century for livestock. The pigs soon escaped and established wild populations all over Australia and now their number is estimated to be around 24 million. They are among Queensland’s most widespread and destructive pest animals.

 

They degrade waterholes and wetlands, contribute to soil erosion, prey on smaller animals and carry diseases.  There are different methods in use to eradicate them (poisons, traps, hunting), but since they are so well adapted to the climate of Queensland, even reducing their numbers is a difficult task.

 

 

 

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