Getting to Know the Locals: A Brief Tour of Australian Fauna

Posted: August 10, 2015

Students at the SFS Centre for Rainforest Studies are fully immersed in a flourishing and untamed rainforest. This—for better and perhaps to some for worse—also means getting to know our resident critters in their various habitats and peculiarities. The Wet Tropics of Far North Queensland is an area of particularly rich biodiversity, and is definitely unique up compared to the continental United States, offering an array of brand new and interesting creatures to encounter. Some are elusive, but others are a daily occurrence here at the Center, and this group has been fortunate to meet a good assortment of both. Following is a brief introduction to a few of them and their distinctive characteristics. Many of those that live on site are so ingrained in our daily goings-on that they’ve each earned a permanent nickname.

The most common of these is Charles the Brush-Turkey. He’s constantly hanging around and always ready for a game of “peck-anything-in-sight” or “flap-but-don’t-fly.”

The second is Louis the Lewin’s Honeyeater. He joins us for every meal, and has quite a lot to say about any topic of discussion. No crumb is left uneaten with him around!

Most evenings, we’re also visited by Borris the Bandicoot. He’s a very good natured little marsupial, although his nocturnal and somewhat mole-like characteristics mean he’s blind as a baseball bat when the lights are on.

His prey instincts are not exactly keen either, so he’s been known to come bumbling right up to your feet on our veranda.

A slightly more private but still permanent inhabitant of our property is Cynthia the Amethystine Python. Every now and then you’ll catch her lounging on the path between cabins or on our access road, especially if she’s recently eaten and in a comfortable digestion spot.

Leaving the site and heading out into field excursions, this group was introduced to a good friend of ecology Professor Siggy: the yellow-bellied glider. A nocturnal arboreal marsupial that glides from tree to tree, not unlike the flying squirrel known to most of us, you’ll only catch this guy if you’re looking at the right tree at the right moment during the right time of the night. Luckily for us, we were!

On our way home from an evening of hanging out with the yellow-bellied gliders, we made an abrupt and quick stop to say hello to another friend of Siggy; the echidna. He was not very pleased to see us, and promptly rolled up to into a ball from which we could not coax him out.

This last week we took a trip up to Daintree National Park, and were able to visit with some noteworthy locals of that area as well. Most surprisingly, and most welcome, we encountered a cassowary on a boardwalk through some mangroves, who was having a swell time standing in a creek and preening. He wasn’t much interested in us, but didn’t mind that we stood around and gawked at him for about a half hour either.

Last but not least, a cruise down the Daintree River let us observe, from a respectful distance, the fascinating saltwater crocodile. This prehistoric reptile is living proof that being named Scooter does not necessarily make you cute.

Of course there are many more species that make their homes around here, and this is just a peek at a few of our local fixtures. Large and small, furry and scaly, prehistoric and marsupial, we have them all!