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  Tales of a wildlife photographerMike Trenerry
 
  Lemuroid ringtail possum (white variation), Mount Lewis (Photo: Mike Trenerry)  
 
  Lemuroid ringtail possum (white variation), Mount Lewis (Photo: Mike Trenerry)  
 
  Yellow-footed antechinus (Photo: Mike Trenerry)  
 
  Yellow-footed antechinus (Photo: Mike Trenerry)  

The forests of what is now the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area have been pivotal to my personal development and many of my most vivid memories. I was lucky to have had contact from an early age with naturalists of the calibre of Clyde Coleman, Bill Hosmer, Ray Straatman and Alan Williamson, all whom have now passed away. Later, as a wildlife photographer, I have had numerous adventures in the Wet Tropics with John Meade, Andrew Dennis, Garry Werren and Mike Prociv – often eventful and funny but also a little reckless and taxing at times.

I fondly recall, throughout my teenage years and twenties, slogging up numerous Wet Tropics mountains, staying out all night repeatedly in torrential rain chasing obscure frogs, going for six to nine hour spotlight runs on numerous evenings and waiting hours in hides for birds to turn up. The scrub itch and ticks; stings from stinging trees, bullrouts, wasps and bullants; close calls with poisonous snakes; and rude awakenings by unwelcome wildlife seem rather amusing to me now. However, two more recent tales illustrate the perils of interacting with wildlife in the Wet Tropics.

As a keen herpetologist, Garry Werren did not readily admit his fear of snakes and it seemed at odds with his zeal for serpentine ecology and taxonomy. A long and successful spotlight run on a misty Windsor Tableland evening, when tropical bettongs, Bennett’s tree-kangaroos and spotted-tailed quolls were encountered, was continually interrupted by amethystine pythons lying across the road. I stopped the car and moved at least ten compliant pythons under two metres in length from the road and showed Garry that they posed little threat. After some coercion Garry gave his word that he would remove the next python from the road and there would be no excuses. A short time later I saw a monster python with its head frozen still in the air and pulled up so close that Garry couldn’t see it. He returned to the car as white as a sheet and refused to pull it off the road. After some reassurance that pythons are friendly he took the plunge and grabbed it around the neck. The ensuing struggle saw the python pull one of Garry’s legs to his chest, pin his arms to his body and defecate on him, while aggressively twisting to free its snapping head from his grasp. Once the initial humour of the situation passed I wrestled for 15 minutes to control the snake’s head and loosen the coils from around Garry’s neck and body. Ironically, Garry was thereafter cured of his fear of snakes.

Amethystine python (Photo: Mike Trenerry)

I was assisting Miriam Goosem with the trapping and tagging of small rainforest animals to help determine their ability to cross various types of roads. One day on Black Mountain Road near Kuranda I found that the traps had been damaged and moved, the small animals terrorised or killed by a large and powerful animal. It was a bloody scene leading up to the first untouched trap which contained a white-tailed rat that had been feeding on a carpet of fruit from a white cedar tree. The rat protested with guttural grunts at receiving an identity tattoo in its ear. The grunts attracted the attention of a large animal – I could hear it coming and could see the wait-a-while fronds moving over 30 metres away as it approached. Suddenly, a huge female cassowary leapt into the open, made a booming sound and angrily stamped its feet while ruffling its feathers and puffing out its neck.

In spite of having dozens of previous cassowary encounters and routinely reassuring others that the birds are rather like overgrown barnyard fowls, I was unsettled. Perhaps it was simply my presence in its territory that upset it; my red clip board, blue plastic bag and baseball cap; or valued food items like the rat or fruit. The bird was enraged and bigger than any I’d seen before. It ran straight at me, so I just dropped everything and ran for the safety of the car, the cassowary following. Reaching the car, I turned to see it had vanished. Instead, a smaller male cassowary walked from behind the car, giving me more anxious moments before it sauntered casually into the rainforest with no interest in me.

Mike Trenerry

Growing up in Cairns, Mike developed a keen interest in ecology and photography. After various jobs and a stint as a tour guide he began work at the Environmental Protection Agency where he still works assessing development proposals. Mike’s natural history photos have appeared in more than 200 books and other publications worldwide – in posters, postcards, bookmarks, newspapers, magazines, brochures and advertising. His photos include now extinct species and the first photos of particular Wet Tropics animals. Mike has assisted in the discovery and description of new species and published scientific papers in a variety of fields. He is a generalist with expertise in disciplines such as aquatic ecology and terrestrial vertebrate animals. His other interests include tropical fruits, fish, biogeography and climate.

Mike Trenerry

Growing up in Cairns, Mike developed a keen interest in ecology and photography. After various jobs and a stint as a tour guide he began work at the Environmental Protection Agency where he still works assessing development proposals. Mike’s natural history photos have appeared in more than 200 books and other publications worldwide – in posters, postcards, bookmarks, newspapers, magazines, brochures and advertising. His photos include now extinct species and the first photos of particular Wet Tropics animals. Mike has assisted in the discovery and description of new species and published scientific papers in a variety of fields. He is a generalist with expertise in disciplines such as aquatic ecology and terrestrial vertebrate animals. His other interests include tropical fruits, fish, biogeography and climate.

 
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