Understanding - Get to know your environment

The Daintree lowlands and surrounding Daintree National Park and World Heritage Listed Wet Tropics are often talked about as one, but while they are dependent on each other, they are actually a collection of very localised ecosystems and communities, many of which are high in endemic plants and animals (species that exist only in the defined area).

There’s a good chance you and your neighbours’ blocks contain the worlds only known individuals of an entire species. Different ecosystems and landscapes mean there can be no one-size-fits-all scenario – this section is intended as a guide to build an understanding of the conservation values and threats to those values present on your block so that you can be the best steward you can be.

The challenges of living on the Daintree Coast are significant, and the breadth of prior experiences of those that do diverse, but we all agree that the more you understand the environment and community the more you will love it and the easier it will be.

threats and values

Every part of the ecosystem and landscape provides an essential service that maintains overall health. But each of these components, our ‘conservation values’, faces significant threats due to residential development, land use and climate change. 

general tips

Here are some general tips for any new residents.

  • Get to know other locals and ask questions
  • Get to know the drainage lines – walk your property during and after heavy rain to see where the water flows in the natural environment, and how the built environment intercepts water flows. Erosion threatens the health of the waterways and the reef – it’s more likely to be a problem in cleared areas and on hills.
  • Seasonal variations – if you can, live in your house for at least a year before making significant changes. Bad decisions are likely to be costly and unnecessarily damaging to the environment.
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your built environment 
  • Make sure you are maintaining your new toilet, power and water supply correctly – contact the manufacturer or installer for advice.
  • Try to find ways of saving power to avoid unnecessary upgrades to your power supply – it can be easier than you think.
  • Unique planning requirements reflect the unique nature of the environment – contact the Douglas Shire to see if you need a permit before making any changes to your property or infrastructure. Even if you don’t need a permit, the Environmental Officer has visited many properties in Daintree over the years and may be able to give you valuable information by phone or email.

new to the tropics

If you’re new to the tropics you will soon find out its about more than just rain.

To begin with, there are a few plants and animals you need to know about, though the general rule with wildlife is if you respect it, it will respect you.

  • If the water is warm, murky or tidal it will have estuarine crocodiles in it – don’t go in or near the water.
  • Most snakes in the region are non-venomous, and 60% of snakebites occur when people are trying to kill them. If a snake comes into the house, gently try to encourage it to leave, or just stay out of its way until it finds its own way out. If it doesn’t leave, or you think it’s venomous, you can phone 1300 130 372 for a list of snake relocators. They may charge as much as a couple of hundred dollars, depending on how local they are.
  • Snakes will also come into the house to shed their skins - the best thing to do is let them finish and move on. Keep the skin as a memento.
  • Rodents and pigs carry leptospirosis – this can be transmitted to humans through open wounds from mud contaminated with urine.
  • Cassowaries and pigs do occasionally attack people, particularly when threatened. Stay out of their way where possible, and if you are with a dog, try to keep it calm.
  • The stinging tree has large heart-shaped leaves covered in tiny hairs – it can be extremely uncomfortable for dogs, horses and humans. Remove the hairs with hair removal wax (yes, wax your legs!).
  • Marine stingers are typically present from November to May though the season start and finish dates vary from year to year and will be announced in the newspaper and on the radio.
  • Flying foxes and some other bats can be carriers of Hendra virus and Lyssavirus – both can be transmitted to humans (Hendra through horses) and are often fatal.
  • The cultural heritage is extraordinarily rich here. Some cultural heritage sites, including burial grounds, are on privately owned land – contact Jabalbina  to find out if your block is a known site, or organize a cultural values assessment of your property.
  • Illnesses are different here – try to find a doctor with plenty of experience in tropical regions, if not locally.
  • Keep an antiseptic cream in the medical kit and use it for even minor cuts or scratches.