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Be informed about the latest projects and research in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area! We hope you enjoy this issue of our quarterly e-newsletter.

Highlights in this issue include:

> Welcome to Patricia O’Loghlen new WTMA Project Manager
> Restoring landscape connectivity on the Tablelands
> World Heritage Tour Guide Induction Scheme

Our Tropical Topics theme this week is all about ‘Frogs.’

If you have any comments, contact us on
07 4052 0533 or give us your feedback

Feel free to pass this newsletter on to your friends.

Andrew Maclean,
Executive Director

Visit our web site here.


Cassowary Coast Recovery Plan

Yasi may be gone but certainly not forgotten as the region continues to rebuild. The Cassowary Coast Regional Council has developed its Cyclone Yasi Recovery Plan which will guide the community on how it will work together during the recovery process. WTMA is working with its partners on the Natural Environment Recovery Group and will be helping to implement the environmental component of the plan. A copy of the plan can be found here.

Cassowaries are making a Comeback

Good news for cassowaries inhabiting the cyclone ravaged rainforests around Ingham and Cardwell – they are finding and eating native fruits. Cassowary scats are showing that many of the birds are once more consuming their natural diet. This is also great news for the rainforest as cassowaries are one of the most important species for distribution and revegetation of our tropical forests. QPWS has now installed 103 cassowary feeding stations since Yasi devastated the landscape in early February. Volunteers are still needed to help prepare cassowary food. Anyone wishing to volunteer their time can phone QPWS Atherton on 4091 1844. Cassowary sightings can be reported to cassowary.sighting@qld.gov.au. For wildlife emergencies including cassowaries in urgent need of assistance please phone 1300 130 372.

Welcome to Patricia O’Loghlen

WTMA warmly welcomes Patricia O’Loghlen, the new Community Engagement Officer who started working at the Authority on 9 May. As the daughter of a canefarmer, Patricia spent the first 13 years of her life growing up along the Tully River at Lower Tully. She attributes her environmental aspirations in adulthood to her wild and rich experiences in muddling around mangroves and dabbling in nearby creeks and beaches whilst a child. Patricia has circumnavigated herself around many parts of Australia and the world since her Tully days. After spending a decade working in Commonwealth protected areas and in Canberra, Patricia pursued the next decade as a United Nations Volunteer in Cambodia, Malawi and Fiji. Patricia returned from Fiji to work in the Commonwealth’s Exceptional Circumstances drought relief program under the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, prior to moving north to join the team in WTMA. Patricia has an Associate Diploma in National Park Management and Masters in International and Community Development.

Patricia O'Loghlen
Community Engagement Officer

Visit by Minister Burke to the Daintree

The fabulous Daintree rainforests were the focus of a visit by The Hon Tony Burke MP, Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities who travelled to the region over Easter.

WTMA Chairperson Peter Valentine and Executive Director Andrew Maclean accompanied the Minister. Also participating were Peter Cochrane, head of Parks Australia and Mike Liddell from James Cook University.

The Minister started his tour with a visit to the Daintree Discovery Centre, hosted by owners Ron and Pam Birkett. This proved a terrific venue to show off the vital role of the tourism industry in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, including the importance of world class rainforest interpretation for visitors to the region.

After a couple of hours at the Discovery Centre, the party journeyed to the Daintree Rainforest Observatory. Here, Mike Liddell arranged for the Minister and Peter Cochrane to enjoy the unique view of the rainforest provided by the canopy crane. JCU’s plans for the Daintree Rainforest Observatory and WTMA’s vision of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area as a learning landscape were the chief items of discussion.

Thanks are due to Ron and Pam Birkett, Mike Liddell and team and other helpers who made the visit a great success. We can be confident that the Minister has returned to Canberra with a refreshed understanding of the issues and opportunities of the Wet Tropics. Let’s hope we see him again soon.

Communities and Partnerships

World Heritage Tour Guide Induction Scheme

WTMA through the Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) have secured funding to develop an induction program for tour guides working across the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The funding of $60,000 will be used to develop online modules similar to those being used by tour guides in Kakadu and Uluru World Heritage Areas.

QTIC Skills Link Manager Robyn Keenan, says once the scheme is delivered online, the additional funding will be used to train 50 guides as part of the process. “Guides will complete two units of training which will eventually support them gaining World Heritage guide accreditation status. The current modules will be modified so that they are tailored to the Wet Tropics and incorporate the objectives of industry partners,” she added.

The induction program also reflects a desire from the tourism industry to have recognised, high quality standards in interpretation and presentation expected at a World Heritage Area. This is an exciting step towards a recognised Wet Tropics tour guide accreditation scheme. WTMA is seeking to cooperate with key stakeholders such as the State Government, Traditional Owners, the tourism industry, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and James Cook University to design a program that will convey the message of world class heritage presentation and preservation.

Tour Guide in the Wet Tropics

Paluma Community Meeting

On 14 May 2011, Townsville City Council’s Integrated Sustainability Department facilitated a successful community workshop with residents, stakeholders and visitors of Paluma. The village of Paluma is surrounded by Paluma Range National Park and is located at the southern end of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Just 60 kilometres north of Townsville, Paluma and the drive up to Paluma along the Mount Spec road offers visitors to the World Heritage Area an opportunity for a low key unique experience. Although Paluma’s facilities are modest, the local community is keen to showcase its unique location and features.

The five hour forum was facilitated by Greg Bruce, a WTMA Community Consultative Committee member. Greg and his team from Townsville assisted participants to start shaping the future of their local area by creating a process to share their passion for, and knowledge of, the area. Through visioning and articulating what was possible, participants identified projects and actions that would enable visitors to Paluma to understand its history and unique qualities. A number of issues were discussed which participants thought can affect the visitor experience. These included the road to Paluma, communication network availability, and small business opportunities to cater for visitors. Participants also wanted visitors to experience the richness of the wilderness through more access to walking tracks. The day was also a great opportunity for networking with others who had travelled to Paluma for the workshop and reinvigorating the community engagement process in the southern gateway to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.

Paluma rainforest

Cultural assessment of Wet Tropics

The Australian Heritage Council has completed an assessment of Indigenous heritage values for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The Heritage Council undertook the assessment to identify if Wet Tropics Indigenous heritage was of national significance. Wet Tropics Rainforest Indigenous heritage is considered unique because:

Stone Tool Nuts

>> it is the only area in Australia where Aboriginal people lived permanently in rainforest
>> they used fire to alter vegetation communities to enable year round occupancy of the rainforest
>> they processed and used toxic plants for food and medicine and,
>> their creation stories instructed them about the foods in the rainforest and how to make them edible

Listing of the Wet Tropics for its Indigenous heritage is a long-held aspiration of Rainforest Aboriginal people expressed in the Wet Tropics Regional Agreement that was launched by WTMA in 2005. The final round of public consultation by the Heritage Council was completed in May. The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, The Hon. Tony Burke MP will make the final decision on listing.

Cairns to Townsville Tourism Hub Experience Development Strategy

WTMA is working in partnership with Tourism Queensland, Tourism Tropical North Queensland, Townsville Enterprise Limited and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism to develop a pilot Tourism Experience Development Strategy (EDS) so the cities can position themselves to present and promote the best tourism experiences.

Regional workshops were held with stakeholders and a tourism product audit summarised activities and assets in the region and identified gaps and issues with the current situation in the market.

Communities and Partnerships Manager, Paul Chantrill said the process has been a valuable experience to take stock of current challenges and issues as well as identify new opportunities for quality tourism in and around the World Heritage Area.

“Key hero experiences for the region continue to be based around the reef and rainforest nexus. But the process has reminded us of the urgent need to present our landscape in new and thoughtful ways to an increasingly discerning and informed experience seeking tourism market. The study will serve to refresh and invigorate product and brand development and increase the quality of tourism experience and presentation in the World Heritage Area,” Dr Chantrill said.

The Wet Tropics National Landscapes Steering Committee will meet with representatives from Tourism Australia and Parks Australia mid June to facilitate the process of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area being recognised as a National Landscape by the end of the year. Tourism Australia will also be instigating a Wet Tropics branding strategy that will take place in the second half of the year. The pilot EDS is part of the Australian Government’s National Long-term Tourism Strategy.

Inaugural National Heritage Week Celebrated

The nation celebrated its first Australian Heritage Week from 14 – 20 April. The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and the National Heritage List Sites Promotion program provided $10,000 for WTMA, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the tourism industry to promote World Heritage reef and rainforest at regional airports during the week. Tourism volunteers distributed flyers featuring scenic photos and World Heritage information. An article in the July issue of the Qantas Inflight magazine will showcase the Wet Tropics. For more information click here.

Planning and Conservation

Gliders Looking Good

Sightings of healthy Mahogany Gliders north of Cardwell is a small taste of victory for those volunteers who have been working tirelessly since Cyclone Yasi to ensure the endangered population survives. Daryl Dickson has been leading the Mahogany Glider recovery in Cardwell and says that although it was a tremendous effort from government and non-government sectors, the battle is not won yet. “This is the first time we’ve ever had to deal with something like this and we are seeing what works and what doesn’t. The next important phase is ongoing monitoring and the long-term effect this event may have on the mahogany glider population, there is still a potential for something to go drastically wrong,” she said.

Mahogany Glider
Photo: Daryl Dickson

On Alert for Myrtle Rust

As the adage says ‘rust never sleeps’ and when this kind of rust has the potential to devastate tracts of World Heritage forest, we need to be on the alert. Cairns had one confirmed case of Myrtle Rust contained to one plant in a local nursery, so far no other cases have been reported. We need to maintain our vigilance to ensure this serious threat to our tropical forests does not infiltrate the World Heritage Area. Biosecurity Queensland has confirmed Myrtle Rust in 127 sites in south-east Queensland and is calling on the public to report any sightings to help track the spread of the disease. The fungus attacks emerging leaves and shoot tips and young stems as well as fruits and flower parts. Animals that feed on the leaves, flowers or fruit of infected plants can cause it to spread. The air borne spores can also be transported by humans on their clothes and vehicles and even through the postal system. They can be identified by tiny raised spots or pustules that turn a distinctive egg-yolk yellow after a few days. It is important not to move plants affected by Myrtle Rust for fear of spreading its airborne spores. Fact sheets on Myrtle Rust are available on the Biosecurity Queensland website at www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au. Please phone 13 25 23 if you see a plant you think has Myrtle Rust.

World Heritage Nomination for Areas of Cape York Peninsula

Listing the Cape York Peninsula as World Heritage has been proposed as a way of protecting Cape York Peninsula’s special features. The Queensland Government is keen to work with the community and Traditional Owners to determine if World Heritage for Cape York Peninsula is one possible solution to protecting its natural and cultural heritage values.. Please visit www.derm.qld.gov.au/cape_york for more information about the proposed nomination or contact Lyn Wallace, Manager, Cape York Peninsula World Heritage, Department of Environment and Resource Management on 07 4222 5261.

Australian Tropical Rainforest Plant Identification Courses

The Australian Tropical Herbarium and WTMA are once again running plant identification short courses. Courses are open to the public and include introductory and advanced rainforest plant identification modules in addition to a weed identification module. Information and to register phone 4042 1837 or email enquiry@ath.org.au.

Bowenia Palm Photo: JMcCall

Making Connections on the Tablelands

The rainforest-clad mountains of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area are home to an amazing array of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. Unfortunately, clearing of land to make way for towns and farms, has left some of these unique animals stranded in small fragments of forest.

A collaborative WTMA project, made possible by a recent grant of $600,000 from the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country initiative, will help to reconnect remnant forest on private land to the World Heritage Area. The project aims to restore landscape connectivity in the high-altitude areas around Herberton Range National Park; critical habitat for many endemic, temperature-sensitive species, including Lumholtz tree kangaroos, Lemuroid possums, golden bowerbirds and northern barred frogs. In addition to planting and restoration work, scientific trials of lower cost alternatives to planting, and microhabitat manipulation (the addition of log piles to encourage the return of reptiles, insects and frogs to revegetated areas) will be undertaken.

The project will be formally launched in August, but restoration work is already underway, with two hectares recently planted at John Hatton’s property on Kenny Road by the Tablelands Regional Council (TRC) Community Revegetation Unit, Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) volunteers, and National Green Jobs Corporation. Over the next two years, WTMA, QPWS, TRC, TREAT, TKMG, Malanda Landcare, Traditional Owners, and CVA, will be working together to replant approximately five hectares and restore 35 hectares of rainforest in the Southern Atherton Tablelands. If you wish to participate in these activities, the TREAT newsletter will provide dates of future plantings. Watch this spot for project updates.

Conservation volunteer planting trees
on the Tablelands

Greenhouse 2011 Conference

In early April, WTMA and the Tropical Landscapes Joint Venture; James Cook, University and CSIRO, collaborated a display and information booth at the Greenhouse 2011 – the Science of Climate Change conference. The display highlighted WTMA’s Caring for our Country Tableland project and demonstrated practical measures in rehabilitation and conservation to improve landscape resilience. Cairns welcomed over 450 national and international climate change experts to discuss a range of topics including extreme weather events, climate modelling, climate change projections and biodiversity issues. The conference was sponsored by the Queensland Government and hosted by CSIRO.

Deb Pople and Steve Goosem
at the display booth

Daintree Tourism

The WTMA Board has approved amendments to the Wet Tropics Nature Based Tourism Strategy, published in 2000 to ensure any unnecessary impediment to tourism in the Daintree region is removed. Amendments include deleting clauses that refer to the redirection of tourists and visitors away from the areas of Daintree and Cape Tribulation and which propose Wooroonooran as an alternative. It has been acknowledged that the Nature Based Tourism Strategy was produced at a time when there were concerns about high visitation and development in and around the Daintree precinct. WTMA asserts its position that it encourages growth and development of sustainable tourism in all parts of the Wet Tropics consistent with the objectives of the Nature Based Tourism Strategy.

Daintree River & Thorntons Peak
Photo: K Trapnell

Tropical Topics


Notes from the Editor

The Wet Tropics is a very special area for frogs. Representatives of all five Australian frog families are found in the area (including the introduced cane toad as the only, but numerous, example of the Bufonidae family). Many are endemic to the region - about 20 species are found in the rainforests of the Wet Tropics and nowhere else. Of those, many are limited to very small areas. The little waterfall frog (Litoria lorica) apparently occurs only between 640-690m on Thornton Peak.

Our knowledge of rainforest frogs is very recent. About half of them have been studied and given scientific names since 1970 and more are being found. However, faster than they are being discovered, the frogs seem to be disappearing.

Frogs are important. In areas of the world where frog numbers have been seriously depleted, people have discovered, too late, the value of their free insect-control service. Rainforest frogs are an important part of the ecosystem. Tadpoles, in particular, feed on leaves and convert them into protein (themselves) forming a vital link in the food chain. Frogs are eaten by a wide range of other animals.

Frogs have been around much longer than us. They were tough enough to survive the dinosaurs so what is happening to them now?

>> Read more on Tropical Topics here.

Frogs croak

In 1991 the streams on the Mount Carbine Tablelands were quiet. In previous seasons they had resounded to the calls of frogs but in the space of one year, researchers discovered, five species of frogs had apparently disappeared. For example, the sharp-snouted day frog (Taudactylus acutirostris) previously found at densities of up to 100 in 100m of stream, had completely vanished. It is now known that between 1989 and 1994 six stream-dwelling frog species disappeared from the Wet Tropics uplands. What happened? Where did they go?

The sharp-snouted day frog (Taudactylus acutirostris)

Those questions are being asked worldwide. In many countries the reasons are obvious - pollution (especially acid rain), insecticides, herbicides (frogs are especially vulnerable because they absorb moisture through their skin), land clearance and channelisation of rivers not to mention the catching of large numbers of frogs for the dinner table. But what about amphibians vanishing from apparently pristine environments - the high mountain lakes in North America, the forests of Costa Rica and the tablelands of the Wet Tropics?

The Australian wave of disappearances was first detected in southern Queensland in the late 1970s and has been working its way north. It devastated frogs of the Atherton Tablelands a year before moving on to the Carbine Tablelands. Generally those frogs which breed in upland rainforest streams - ideal frog habitats - have been affected. Interestingly, some species which also occur in lowland areas have vanished only in their upland habitats.

Is the frogs’ disappearance an early warning of environmental degradation? It has been suggested that they may be victims of ozone depletion over Australia, although it seems unlikely that nocturnal forest dwellers would be the first to suffer. Is a disease responsible? Perhaps the disappearances are a natural part of frogs’ life cycles and they will just as suddenly reappear - although rainforest creatures don’t normally go through boom-bust cycles common in other less ‘stable’ habitats.

Chytrid (pronounced kit-rid) fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) causes the disease known as chytridiomycosis or chytrid infection. Chytrid fungus has been identified as a primary cause of massive mortality of stream dwelling frogs in the region. The highly infectious chytridiomycosis was first discovered in dead and dying frogs in the Wet Tropics in 1993. The fungus is now widespread across Australia. Worldwide, chytrid fungus has caused the extinction of up to 122 frog species, eight in Australia.

t: 07 4052 0542 | f: 07 4031 1364
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