Daintree Forest II - Wildlife

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This page is all about wildlife in the forest. In about 1,200 square kilometers, which is equivalent of 0.2% of the Australia landmass, the Daintree Forest covers 65% of Australia's bat and butterfly species, 30% of frogs and marsupial species, as well as 20% of bird species.

Mammals. Because of the dense forest, there're very little chance for us to encounter any large mammals in the forest. However, when we climbed up to a high point, from a distance, you can spot thousands and thousands of dark creatures hanging in trees. Those are Flying Fox, a species of large fruit bat. The name come from a fury head that resemble that of a fox. Every night thousands of them crowded the sky (last pic). They feed on nectars of night flower and help pollinate them. Quite a delicate task for the prince of darkness huh?


Birds. The most famous birds in the Daintree forest, or in all Australia is the Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius). A closed relative of the ostriches, the Southern cassowary is a huge flightless bird that can reach up to 2m (6'8") in height and about 70kg (154 lbs) in weight. A prominent foamy crest on the head is believed to be a secondary sexual characteristic. It's listed in the Guinness Book of World Record as the "most dangerous bird in the world" because of its long (up to 15cm or 6 inches), extremely sharp, dagger-like inner toes. When they are delivered with a power kick, with both feet, the enemy is most likely rolling on the ground with two long and deep cuts across the belly, watching its bowels spilling all over the places. Fortunately, crossowaries are shy animals and unprovoked attacks by them are very rare. They feed on fruits such as the Cassowary Plum (Cerbera floribunda), shown in the last pic.

In the first 2 pix is a Brush Turkey (aka Bush Turkey or Scrub Turkey, Alectura lathami) crossing the road. It's a large clumsy-looking bird that apparently had little fear of human. In the next 3 pix is a Mask Lapwing (Vanellus miles), easily recognized by a bright yellow wattle "mask" on the face.

The colorful little nectar eater in the first 3 pix has a suitable name: the Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus). It's often kept as a pet. Next 2 pix is a Metallic Starling (Aplonis metallica) enjoying the fruit of the forest. In the last 2 pix is a pair of White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster).


Reptiles. Most note-worthy of them all is the Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), the largest living reptile. An adult male can grow up to 20.6 ft (6.3m) in length and weigh up to 1.2 ton (2,600 lbs). A vicious opportunistic predator, it's known to take on all kind of preys, including animals as large as male water buffalos, and unfortunately, human as well. They typical ambush near water, strike explosively, and drag the prey into water in the blink of eyes.

Think that's the top of the food chain? Guess what's on our plate in the 3rd pic? BBQ crocodile belly with pepper salt dipping! My mouth is still watering looking at it now. The chef skillfully employed a Cantonese Cha Shiu (BBQ pork) sauce to marinate the belly meat, grilled it lightly, and decorated the dish with Tian-mian Sauce, a Northern Chinese specialty, and watercress. The presentation is almost French but the flavor is unmistakably Chinese. The sauce and pepper salt effective masked the rammish smell of the belly fat and harmonized perfectly with the distinguish texture of the crocodile meat... I know this sound like an Iron Chef commentator, but you have to understand that the dish was so fine that it almost moved me to tears. Familiar taste of our homeland in such a creative, well-executed dish, thousands of miles away, in the middle of a jungle. What a miracle! In case you want to try it yourselves, it's on the menu of Heritage Lodge deep inside the Daintree Forest, where we stayed.

A Boyd's Forest Dragon (Hypsilurus boydii) resting at night (3 pix). Although brightly colored, it blends surprisingly well with the forest background.

A fresh water Turtle (2 pix); a Grassland Tussock-skink (Pseudemoia pagenstecheri, 2 pix); two Geckos enjoying the light and heat of a street signboard.


Amphibian. All these tree frogs are incredibly cute. In the first 3 pix is a Dainty Green Tree Frog (Litoria gracilenta), followed by a Green-eyed Tree Frog (Litoria genimaculata, 3 pix) .


You can hear a Northern Barred Frog (Mixophyes schevilli, 3 pix) from quite a distance. That deep "wahnk wahnk" mating call is unmistakable. The Cane Toad (Bufo marinus, 2 pix) is similar in size but much less lovable. It was introduced into Australia in 1935 as an agricultural pest control. However, Cane toads and even their tadpoles are highly toxic to many native predators when ingested. Now itself is considered a pest. In the last pic, a pair of Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea).


Riveting insects' world in the rainforests. The Hercules Moth (Coscinocera hercules) is one of the largest moth in the world with wings span up to 27cm. This one I'm holding on my hand is a male, judging from its handsome long tails and a pair of prominent antennae. The delicate feather-like structure is capable to sense hormone emitted by female moth miles away. Such high-tech devices are by all means necessary because of the stress of finding a mate in a very short time -- the female adult is born without mouthpiece and will live for only 10 days or so, within which she has to mate and lay 80-100 eggs.


Bush Crickets (Phricta aberrans, 4 pix), all thorny and with that mean stare, vicious eh? And I think it looks kinda cool. Last 2 pix, a Striped Raspy Cricket (Paragryllacris combusta).

A pair of Stick Insects (Carausius morosus) are having fun. A Brown Bunyip Cicada (Tamasa tristigma, 2 pix) and some discarded shells. Last pic, a Mantis.

More interesting insects. This fly with its compound eyes sticking far out. Wonder if it have a better view? In the next 3 pix, these Green Tree Ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) reported taste as good as they look. Their juicy green abdomens have a special sour flavor and is rich in Vitamin C.

More insects...


Other Arthropod.

I've never seen so many spiders in my entire life. In the first 2 pix is a Golden Orb Weaver (Nephila clavata). Next 2 pix are both Wolf Spiders. God I hate spiders!

Little crabs jumping all over the beaches. In the 3rd pic, that little guy is so quick and swift, it earned the name Ghost Crab (Ocypode cordimana).


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