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t: 07 4052 0542 | f: 07 4031 1364 | a: 1st Floor, 15 Lake Street, P O Box 2050, Cairns Q 4870

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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:

> Cassowary recovery after Cyclone Yasi
> Green light for World Heritage Gateway feasibility study
> A Myrtle Rust alert for far north Queensland

Also in this issue - the return of Tropical Topics! Tropical Topics was a popular newsletter that ran from 1992 to 2004 and was produced by WTMA and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. It was originally only distributed as a hard copy. Today we breathe new life into the newsletters, by providing them to you online.

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.


Cyclone Yasi

Our tropical rainforests have been subject to their second major cyclone in five years. Cyclone Yasi crossed the coast as a category five in early February smashing the Innisfail, Tully and Cardwell areas. Sadly many or these forests were just starting to show signs of recovery following the devastating effects of Cyclone Larry in March 2006.

Lacey Creek day use area

WTMA is supporting community projects in the wake of Yasi through the Cassowary Coast Regional Council Recovery Group. Together with our regional partners Terrain NRM, and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), we will work to ensure recovery of key environmental values and to assist in reinvigorating the tourism industry.

Outstanding efforts have been made by QPWS to act quickly to literally pave a way to recovery. QPWS has a Recovery Operations Base at Cardwell to collaborate with stakeholders to determine regional priorities with an emphasis on opening parks, facilities and walking tracks. This will keep the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area open for locals and tourist to enjoy.

Cassowary recovery

The lesson from Cyclone Larry is that it’s a race against time to set up feeding stations to save cassowaries after Cyclone Yasi. Many cassowaries would soon be starving as all their customary rainforest food had been stripped from trees and lay rotting on the ground. Cassowaries are an important keystone species that rejuvenates rainforest habitats by distributing the seeds of more than 70 species of trees.

Cassowary feeding station

Within a few short days after Cyclone Yasi QPWS staff had flown over the areas most affected to assess the cyclone's damage. Within 11 days 21 feeding stations were established and more than 1000kg of fruit was distributed to feeding stations and via aerial drops. The remarkable Cassowary Response Team is now in full action with 98 cassowary feeding stations operating between the Cardwell Ranges and Flying Fish Point; more than 7,000kg of fruit distributed via feeding stations and heli-drops; ten cameras recording cassowaries using the feeding sites. Unfortunately a cassowary was hit by a vehicle on the Mission Beach – Tully Road. This highlights the need to drive with care in cassowary habitat.

The Wet Tropics Management Authority (WTMA) distributed a media release the day after the cyclone that generated significant media interest in WTMA’s Scientific Advisory Committee meeting and resulted in the broadcast of important messages about the plight of the cassowary. WTMA is assisting QPWS Cassowary Response Team with community engagement and has been distributing information and keeping stakeholders updated by email and jointly facilitating some essential community meetings.

How to help – Several conservation groups are raising funds for the cassowary feeding program and longer-term cassowary habitat conservation and restoration. You can donate via:

>> Bob Irwin Wildlife Fund
>> Centre for Coastal and Cassowary Conservation (C4)
>> Rainforest Rescue
>> Save the Cassowary
>> Mission Beach Wildcare Inc (general wildlife care)

Volunteers willing to help cut up fruit at Garners Beach on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, can register with Ms Jodie Eden, Community Education Ranger, Email jodie.eden@derm.qld.gov.au, Telephone 4091 8102.

Cassowary sightings should be reported to QPWS by email: cassowary.sighting@derm.qld.gov.au Injured, sick or hungry birds requiring a rapid response should be reported to the QPWS 24hr hotline: 1300 130372.

Biosecurity alert: Myrtle Rust found in Cairns

If you work in the horticulture industry or you’re just a keen backyard gardener, keep your eyes peeled for a new fungus that has reached North Queensland that has the potential to severely impact the native flora of the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area. Myrtle Rust is a serious disease caused by the fungus Uredo rangelii. This quickly spreading disease affects plants of the Myrtaceae family which dominate Australian forests, making it a major concern in the Wet Tropics. There are 211 species of Myrtaceae in the Wet Tropics bioregion, including bottle brush (Callistemon spp.), tea tree (Melaleuca spp.) and eucalypts (Eucalyptus spp.). Rainforest species such as lilly pillys, golden penda and paperbark trees are also under threat. The disease also has potential to severely impact the nursery and the agricultural industries.

Myrtle Rust on Beach Cherry (Eugenia reinwardtiana) heavy infection. Photo: Biosecurity Queensland

Myrtle Rust has recently been confirmed on a blushing beauty (Austromyrtus inophloia) plant in a Cairns nursery. This is the first detection of Myrtle Rust outside South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales. Once it is established, it is not possible to eradicate or stop the spread of Myrtle Rust, as it produces large quantities of tiny spores that are easily spread. The rust thrives in moist and humid weather conditions and is spread mainly by wind, wildlife and human movement. Biosecurity Queensland is continuing to work with affected industries to develop management options to address the impacts of the disease. Myrtle Rust has now been confirmed on 37 sites in Queensland.

The WTMA Board received a report on the Myrtle Rust threat at its meeting on 7 and 8 March. The Board is very concerned about the threat to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and emphasised the great importance of effective biosecurity measures to protect the natural values of the World Heritage Area.

For more information on Myrtle Rust please visit www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au (view Plant health, pests and diseases). If you suspect Myrtle Rust on your property, notify Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Green light for World Heritage gateway feasibility study

Queensland Premier, the Honourable Anna Bligh MP, has announced that a WTMA application for funding under the Tourism Feasibility Grants program has been successful. The funding will allow WTMA to employ consultants to undertake a feasibility study on a World Heritage Gateway Centre based in Cairns. It has been announced as part of the State’s cyclone recovery response.

Trinity Wharf (Photo: Tourism Queensland)

The World Heritage Gateway would offer substantial impetus to the North Queensland tourism industry. It capitalises on World Heritage as an essential part of the North Queensland experience.

Consultants will seek advice from industry partners, tourism agencies, Indigenous ventures and local government to develop a detailed concept plan as a basis for investment.

The World Heritage Gateway Centre would showcase North Queensland’s two World Heritage Areas – the Wet Tropics of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef and would orient visitors to other World Heritage Areas. It would create a new attraction in Cairns and educate visitors and the community about the values of our World Heritage Areas and their conservation in our region and beyond.

Board News

Board Director Nominations

The term of appointment of Directors Allison Halliday and Russell Butler Snr expired on 14 November 2010. WTMA would like to thank Allison and Russell for their contribution to the Board in general and for their guidance and leadership in relation to Rainforest Aboriginal cultural issues in particular.

Subsequently the State and Federal Ministers for the Environment have endorsed a community engagement proposal, recommended by WTMA’s Rainforest Aboriginal Advisory Committee, to seek expressions of interest (EOI) from suitably qualified persons. A panel including Rainforest Aboriginal and government representatives will assess the EOIs and provide a shortlist of male and female persons to the relevant ministers for their consideration and potential nomination. The positions have been recently advertised in regional newspapers inviting expressions of interest. Information kits may be obtained by contacting WTMA on 07 40520555. EOIs must be received at WTMA by close of business 15 April.

WTMA Chair Peter Valentine and
Board member Alastair Birtles

Board Tour

The WTMA Board have been out getting their boots dirty and hands on the local issues. In November the Board visited the Daintree Gateway Precinct to discuss the master plan for the Daintree River Crossing; Cow Bay to have a look at a proposed site for implementing an Eastern Kuku Yalanji Community Development Plan and stopped for lunch at the Daintree Discovery Centre and looked at the rainforest tower.

WTMA Board in the field

A walk along the Mossman George Boardwalk hosted by QPWS ranger Tina Alderson highlighted the challenges of building in such a treacherous location. Finally some stops between Port Douglas and Cairns examined the impacts of the vehicle access here upon the World Heritage Area. This was a great chance for the Board to experience first hand some of the significant activity in the area.

Board Summary

The WTMA Board held its eighty-fourth meeting in Cairns on 7 and 8 March 2010. The Board welcomed Ms Leah Talbot and Pastor John Andy to the meeting as observers representing Rainforest Aboriginal people.

Major items of Board discussion included:


The risk of Myrtle Rust creates for the conservation values of the Wet Tropics. The Board noted that Myrtle Rust is the most recent of a series of biosecurity risks for the World Heritage Area. Others include electric ants, yellow crazy ants, Asian honey bee, Siam weed and Miconia


The impacts of Cyclone Yasi on the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and the need for coordinated investment to recover and strengthen landscape resilience in the Wet Tropics


The conservation status of the Southern Cassowary. The Board considered a report on a Birds Australia review of the conservation status of the cassowary and agreed to provide advice on key conservation issues for the species in the Wet Tropics


The draft periodic report on State of Conservation of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area being prepared for consideration by UNESCO


Progress on the development of community development plans under the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Indigenous Land Use Agreement


Future consultation arrangements for engagement of Rainforest Aboriginal people including support for establishment of a Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples’ Alliance


WTMA recognises leading rainforest women

The WTMA Board joined staff on 8 March to celebrate International Women’s Day. WTMA Chairperson, Assoc Professor Peter Valentine took the opportunity to recognise the very valuable contribution women have made to the original listing of the Wet Tropics as a World Heritage Area and to its subsequent management. Peter noted the particular contribution of women such as Dr Aila Keto, Margaret Thorsborne, Dr Rosemary Hill, Joan Wright, Annabel Olsen, Daryl Dickson, Wendy Cooper, Dawn Frith, Dr Henrietta Marie, Allison Halliday, Syb Bresolin, Hazel Douglas and Maise Barlow to understanding, appreciation and conservation of the World Heritage Area.

Dr Elaine Harding

Board members and WTMA staff also took the opportunity to recognise and thank retiring WTMA Director Dr Elaine Harding for her contribution to the Authority. Elaine has served as an Authority director for three years, leading liaison activities with the conservation sector and promoting effective community engagement.

2009-2010 WTMA Annual Report and State of the Wet Tropics Report on the web

The 2009-2010 WTMA Annual Report and State of Wet Tropics Report is now available on the WTMA website. To download your copy click here.


Communities and Partnerships

United Nations International Year of the Forest

The UN General Assembly has declared 2011 as the International Year of the Forest to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. WTMA is currently promoting the International Year of the Forest by providing a ‘Forest Quiz’ package about the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area that will be distributed directly to North Queensland schools and also promoted on the WTMA website.
Some interesting global forest facts:

>> Forests cover 31% of total land area
>> Forests are home to 80% of our terrestrial biodiversity
>> Forests are home to 300 million people around the world

For more information feel free to visit here.

WTMA Community Engagement Strategy

After an extensive program of consultation, WTMA has compiled a new community engagement strategy. The strategy outlines WTMA’s intended approach to community engagement services. The strategy focuses on WTMA’s capacity to deliver community engagement well beyond just providing information but listening and recording feedback so we can collaborate better with the community. To find out more visit here.

Eastern Kuku Yalanji (EKY) Project Update

The Yalanji people’s voices are being heard as we prepare for the historic return of their traditional lands. A WTMA-Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation team have been engaging the community and preparing Community Development Plans (CDPs) and Activity Guidelines (AGs) under the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Indigenous Land Use Agreements. The CDP/AGs will provide for where and how Yalanji people will be able to return to and use and manage traditional lands for their socio-cultural and economic benefit thereby improving well being and contributing to closing the gap. Most of these lands agreed for return under secure tenure are within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and will also require development consistent with the local government planning and building requirements. WTMA and Jabalbina have facilitated the formation of a cross-government working forum, led by the Department of Local Government and Planning and including the Cook and Cairns Regional Councils, to consider practical ways of integrating the rights and interests of Indigenous landowners with development and environmental conservation regulation.

12th Annual Cassowary Awards

Eight Cassowary Award winners were honoured by WTMA at Wildlife Habitat, Port Douglas in November.

Over 200 guests applauded the extraordinary efforts of people who are dedicated to conservation in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The awards were presented by Senator Jan McLucas, representing the Australian Government, and Mr Steve Wettenhall, Member for Barron River, representing the Queensland Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Ms Kate Jones.

The evening also featured the sixth year of the Young Cassowary Awards. These awards recognise the work of students and school classes who help to conserve the Wet Tropics through special projects.

WTMA would like to thank our sponsors for the evening - the Daintree Discovery Centre and Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. For more information about the winners click here.


Cassowary Awards recipients 2010
pictured with distinguished guests

Planning and Conservation

Mahogany Gliders need help

After 100% of their habitat was smashed and shredded by Cyclone Yasi, the Mahogany Glider is in dire straits. These exquisite creatures are confined to a narrow coastal strip of eucalypt and melaleuca woodland between Tully and Ingham and their numbers are dwindling. Cassowary Award winner Darryl Dickson and QPWS are establishing feeding stations and emergency den shelters, and are in need of more help! The latest updates are available via the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland who is accepting donations and offers of help from volunteers for Mahogany Glider recovery. To report sightings of Mahogany Gliders, call Rowena Grace at Terrain NRM in Innisfail on 4043 8000.

Mahogany Glider

Indian connection

With the second highest density of roads in the world after America, the Indian government has approached WTMA for expert advice to improve its ecological approach to linear infrastructure management.

WTMA was contacted following a meeting of India’s National Board for Wildlife, chaired by the Indian Prime Minister. Various research documents that helped to translate science to policy and on-ground management were provided. This included case studies and research on roads and their affect on forest habitat and wildlife including wildlife mortality rates, habitat fragmentation, loss and degradation, erosion and weeds.

A background paper has been published that is heavily influenced by Wet Tropics research and management policies and codes of practice for roads, electricity and water supply infrastructure. Dr Miriam Goosem of James Cook University was also approached for her specialist knowledge regarding the effect of roads on wildlife mortality and mitigation techniques.


Bridle Creek powerline

Tropical Topics

Welcome to the rebirth of ‘Tropical Topics’. Tropical Topics was a popular newsletter that ran from 1992 to 2004 and was produced by WTMA and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. It was designed to help you keep up to date with natural science and conservation news and issues of north Queensland. Originally only distributed in a hard copy to day we are rebroadcasting these stories in digital version.

Gondwana – a living museum

Most scientists believe that the distinctly Australian flora of the drier parts of the continent; our famous wattles, eucalypts, banksias and grevilleas all originated from the ancient stock of Gondwana, the living descendants of which can be found in the Wet Tropics.

Gondwana - a supercontinent which existed hundreds of millions of years ago - comprised the southern continents as well as India and parts of southern Asia. (The northern continents were joined in a similar landmass called Laurasia.)

For millions of years life evolved across these supercontinents. Dinosaurs came and went and flowering plants developed. At times much of the land (including what is now Australia) was covered by rainforest.

About 180 million years ago Gondwana started to break into continents which gradually drifted apart. Australia was the last continent to break away, about 45 million years ago.

For 30 million years Australia's life evolved in isolation. As the climate became drier many species died. Others adapted to the drier conditions and survived to colonise the vast areas of dry open forests, grasslands and deserts which cover much of the continent today. Only the mountainous regions of the east coast remained constantly moist. It is here that the last remaining refuges of Australia’s ancient tropical rainforests survive, with many species little changed since the evolution of the first flowering plants.

Some plants such as the Idiospermum from Cape Tribulation did not evolve. They appear today much as they did millions of years ago. More primitive flowering plants are found in the Wet Tropics than anywhere else on earth.

Read more

Idiospermum australiense seedling


t: 07 4052 0542 | f: 07 4031 1364
a: 1st Floor, 15 Lake Street, P O Box 2050, Cairns Q 4870
Visit our web site | email us here