When one visits the Daintree, most will think of the Estuarine Crocodile, the largest reptile in Australia. But in looking further people will be amazed at the diversity of reptiles found in and around the Daintree rainforest and mangrove habitats.
When walking along the many public walkways and paths take your time and observe the trees, rock outcrops and various other ecosystems. Little toes around a tree branch and, if one moves slowly, you may have found a Boyd’s Forest Dragon; this amazing lizard can be found in most rainforest areas. It has brilliant colours and large spines along its back.
A splash in the water may not be a crocodile, it may just be an Eastern Water Dragon; these large lizards can grow to nearly a metre in length, are excellent swimmers and can hold their breath for nearly forty minutes.
The frill goes up. The hissing may start. You have come across a Frilled Lizard. He runs on his back legs and hurries up a tree to avoid the large object taking a photo of him.
There are many species of skinks which can be found scurrying around the leaf litter on the forest floor; they range from the large Major Skink to the very impressive Firetailed Skink.
Sometimes things may not be what they seem to be; a piece of bark may look like a piece of bark, but look closely and it may be the Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko. This lizard is an expert at camouflage so as to avoid predators and to find one is amazing in itself. About 15 species of gecko found it the rainforests of North Queensland.
Snakes! The word sends shivers up the spines of a lot of people - most think of venomous species. Those most commonly found in the Daintree include the Taipan, the Eastern Brown, the Death Adder and the Red-bellied Black. All of these snakes are dangerous to man and should be avoided at all times. If one does encounter a snake just walk slowly away.
Most of the snakes seen in the rainforest are harmless though some do obtain very impressive lengths. The Amethystine Python, also commonly called the Scrub Python, holds the Australian record with a particular specimen having measured in at 8.5 metres. They can often be seen sun baking in the tree tops.
Slow moving, belly dragging on the ground, tongue flicking in and out - this reptile could be the Lace Monitor - the second largest Goanna found in Australia. This fella may look slow but if scared he will run very quickly and normally will scurry up a tree. He is mainly a carrion eater and will clean the forest floor; bird’s eggs and fledglings can also be on his menu.
There are a few other species of Monitor found in the Rainforests, Tree Monitors, and Black-tailed Monitors and sometimes the Gould’s Monitor, commonly known as the Race Horse Goanna.
Walking through the Daintree and surrounding area may take longer than one thinks, if you stop look and take your time. Remember, enjoy this beautiful habitat as our amazing reptiles do.
There are two species of crocodiles in Australia, the Saltwater and Freshwater species, and only the "salties" inhabit the Daintree River. It's scientific name is Crocodylus Porosus and its habitat ranges throughout the Indo Pacific regions.
Although history suggests the animals to be very big, the largest crocodiles seen in Australia these days would probably be between 5-6 metres. The Daintree River has a population of about 70 adult crocodiles, the largest being the males at about 5 metres. The females reach about 3.5 metres, and there are many juveniles and hatchlings.
In the last 30 years the Daintree has become well-known for its success in crocodile-spotting, as it is only one and a half hours away from the international airport in Cairns, and easily accessable. There is a great fascination for these animals, particularly with the tourists who visit us from all over the world.
Crocodile spotting in this region has only become popular since about the mid 70's and visitors are impressed with the opportunity to see the crocodiles from nearby. The animals have become used to the boats and by leaving their engines running, or idling, cruise boat operators can get a close look from about 10-15 metres.
The population is described by the experts as being of a low density, and that is because of prolonged hunting over many years. By 1974 the numbers were dangerously low and legislation was introduced to protect them. The numbers have come back slightly to the present sustainable level and they are still breeding successfully.
They breed during the summer by laying many eggs in a large composting mound which they construct. The eggs are incubated for 3 months until they hatch during the Wet season. There is about a 30% hatching rate. The hatchlings are 20cm long and stay with the female for several weeks or months before dispersing. If one or two survive, nature has been successful.
Some of the predators include goannas (monitors) which will dig into the nest to take the eggs, while fish, sharks and birds attack the hatchlings. For safety while fishing, hatchlings move along the edges in the shallows catching prawns, crabs and small fish. The larger crocs have a staple diet of fish and crabs although they are opportunistic and are great scavengers.
The tours are conducted in the conservation zone of the river, which means feeding of crocodiles is not allowed. There is nothing more exciting than seeing these wonderful animals in the wild and it is advisable to check with your accommodation host or at one of the booking offices as to the best times, conditions and transfer opportunities.
The Daintree Marketing Co-Operative acknowledges the custodianship of the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef by the local Kuku Yalanji people whose rich cultures, heritage values, enduring connections and shared efforts protect our natural assets for future generations, and we pay our respect to elders past, present and emerging.
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