Back Fauna of the Daintree Rainforest

Similar to the plants in the Daintree Rainforest, this area is home to the greatest concentration of animal species that are rare, or threatened with extinction, anywhere in the world.

Similar to the plants in the Daintree Rainforest, this area is home to the greatest concentration of animal species that are rare, or threatened with extinction, anywhere in the world.

Estuarine Crocodile
One of the most well known animals living in the Daintree Rainforest area is the Estuarine Crocodile. This creature has been the bane of many explores and settlers in the region during the past 100 years, and it continues to be a threat to visitors to the Daintree who are unaware of the dangers associated with swimming among them.

The crocodile is from the reptile family, and has a cold-blood system which means it needs to regulate it's own body temperature closely. For this reason, it is common to see a saltwater crocodile lying still with its mouth gaping - a cooling process to maintain body temperature between 30 and 32 degrees Celsius.

A crocodile feeds upon prey with sudden fury. It will normally wait near the riverbank, very still, and pounce upon unsuspecting prey in a rapid movement. The victim is thrashed into submission, and dragged underwater where it is stashed underneath a ledge or some other obtrusion from the river. The victim is then left to soften for a few days before the crocodile returns to have a feast.

The crocodile will eat anything including smaller animals such as fish, crabs and insects. Meals also include larger animals such as turtles, birds, reptiles, dingoes, wallabies, domestic cattle, and people if you're careless.

The temperature at which a crocodile egg is kept determines the sex of the baby crocodile. If the egg is kept at 31.6 degrees Celsius it will be male. Any other temperature and the baby crocodile will be a female.

Please note that the Estuarine Crocodile became a protected species in 1970 due to overly aggressive hunting by humans. It is illegal to injure or kill a crocodile.

A 1993 CSIRO survey found that the number of cassowary birds in the Daintree Rainforest had fallen to an alarming amount of 54. The species that had once been strong had been reduced by unnatural threats to its habitat including collisions with vehicles, accidental trappings intended for feral pigs, and killings by dogs. As a result, the cassowary is listed as an endangered species. However, it is making a comeback. Recent estimates put the population over 500 - a significant jump in numbers since 1993.

The cassowary is vital to the wet tropics region throughout Far North Queensland because it provides a role of seed disperser for over 100 species of rainforest plants with large fruits. Without the cassowary, these plants would be concentrated around a parent plant and would not spread throughout the rainforest ecosystem.

The skin on the cassowary's head is pale blue, becoming darker further down the neck. Two swinging red wattles hang at the front of the neck with an orange patch on the back of the neck. The body is black.

The cassowary's feet have three large toes, with a spike on each foot up to 120mm long. The female cassowary is larger and more attractive than the male. Average size of the bird is 1.75 meters high.

The cassowary is flightless and is normally quite shy. However, if the bird is agitated in any way - such as being cornered in a small area, or if any animal including human approaches it's nest - it will lash out violently with its sharp claws. Serious injury can result, so avoidance of these large birds is recommended. If you see a cassowary, do not turn and run away from it. Instead, face the bird and back away slowly. Do not feed the cassowary either.

The Daintree Rainforest is home to millions of insects. To experience the feeding patterns of the insects, simply wander into a cool shady part of the forest without wearing any insect repellent.

Golden Orb Spider
Don't worry; the Golden Orb Spider is totally harmless to humans. It may look scary, but it's actually a very passive creature. The body of the spider is only 1-2 millimetres in diameter, however the legs grow to make the spider up to the size of a spread hand.

The leg joints are golden in colour. The web these spiders weave is vast in scope. They can be several metres across, and are often built at head level on hiking trails - a wonderful experience for visitors to the area!

Rufous Owl
Usually only seen at night, the Rufous Owl is more dangerous than it looks. Weighing up to 1.3 kgs, it is capable of swooping upon the nests of other birds and stealing youngsters for its nightly meal. Visitors are unlikely to see the owl during the day, so a nocturnal tour is the best option.

Musky Rat-Kangaroo
Is it a rat, or is it a kangaroo? Maybe this animal should be called a kangarat.

This small creature feeds on the leaves, insects and fallen fruits. It is most active in the early morning and late afternoon, avoiding the intense tropical heat of midday. Its sleeping bed is found among the root systems of large trees, padded with fallen leaves.

The Musky Rat-Kangaroo gets its name from the way it moves along the ground - half kangaroo jump and half rodent walk. The creature begins a hop forward by extending the forelegs, and then it brings the hind legs forward. This is an effective way of traversing the uneven ground of the rainforest.

Feral Pigs
This introduced animal is blamed for many environmental problems in the Daintree Rainforest. The large pigs thrash through the rainforest with brute strength, eating large quantities of native trees and animals. They spread the root-rot fungus with their hoofs, and contribute to the spread of exotic seeds and worms. The feral pigs are declared a pest by National Parks authorities, which estimate the population of pigs at 3 per square kilometre.

Azure Kingfisher
The Azure Kingfisher is one of eleven kingfishers in Australia, and is commonly seen in the Daintree Rainforest. Frequent contact with humans means the birds will come within 2-3 meters of visitors. It has azure blue wings, with an orange breast.

Ulysses Butterfly
The Ulysses Butterfly is an icon of Tropical Northern Australia. It has spectacular large iridescent metallic-blue wings that can be seen from a great distance.

Witchetty Grub
Not a particularly beautiful animal, the Witchetty Grub was an important source of ‘bush tucker' in years past. It lives underneath the bark of large gum trees, and resembles a thick worm. It is white in colour and is high in protein - a yummy treat for the adventurous of stomach.

Spotted Cuscus
The cuscus is very similar to a sloth - and has about the same vigour and energy too. It is a very shy nocturnal mammal that sleeps most of the day perched on a tree branch.

The body of the Spotted Cuscus is covered in tan fur, with spots of chestnut and black on the back. It has reddish-brown legs and a small round face with small eyes. The animals can be up to 80 cm long.

The unique feature that enables the Spotted Cuscus to cling upside down to tree branches is its "two-thumbed" hands. The innermost toe is opposable, creating an ideal grabbing tool.

Visitors to the Daintree Rainforest often mistake the Bandicoot for a tiny kangaroo because they hop around on their hind legs. They grow to about 30 centimetres in length, with fur that ranges in colour from orange, grey, brown, or striped.

You normally only see Bandicoots at night, as they are a nocturnal creature and spend the daylight hours hiding in crevices, logs or tunnels.

Sugar Glider
The name for the Sugar Glider comes from the fact that they glide through the air and feed on sweet things like honey and sugar.
They are silvery blue grey in colour with a dark stripe on the back. Their body length is around 200mm.

Goannas are huge lizards that can be seen high in trees, scampering along the ground, swimming over creeks, and leaping from branch to branch.
The goanna forages for food among leaves on the ground, usually eating insects, spiders, scorpions, centipedes and even small mammals.

Goannas can run quickly on their hind legs and will rear up in a two-legged posture when threatened.

Giant Tree Frog
The Giant Tree Frog is the largest variety of frog on the earth, reaching up to 14 centimetres in length. It is predominantly green in colour, with a white stripe covering its lower lip. It lives throughout the Daintree Rainforest wherever there is a water supply and plenty of shade.

The mating call is similar to a dog's bark.

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