Rainforest Wildlife: Dangerous Creatures and How to Avoid Them
Before you go tramping off into the tropical rainforests of North Queensland all by yourself, there are a few things you should know about the local wildlife.
The Daintree Rainforest is the world’s oldest continuously surviving rainforest and an important ecosystem. It is beautiful and amazing to visit but there are a few rainforest wildlife species you should be aware of that can be dangerous.
Possibly one of the most unpleasant rainforest wildlife you might come into contact with, leeches are more common during the wet season or when it rains.
They like to live in freshwater, moist land areas and puddles. In Australia’s tropical rainforests the most common leeches are the land-dwelling jawed leech. They like to attach themselves to bare skin such as feet, ankles and above the sock line.
If one does climb onto your feet or ankles you should pull them off immediately close to the skin. If you get one that’s hard to detach, try removing it with salt, alcohol or a naked flame. If you leave it on it will eventually drop off by itself when it’s full of your blood!
To deter leeches spray vinegar or insect repellent directly onto your shoes and ankles before heading off into the rainforest.
Ticks are small arachnids and external parasites that are related to mites. Many carry tick-borne diseases like Lymes disease and they survive off the blood of mammals, birds and sometimes reptiles. They live, breed and flourish in humid climates because they need moisture in the air to grow from egg to larvae stage. They are found all along the east coast of Australia.
Ticks tend to hide on leaves, grass and logs and wait for an unsuspecting person or animal to brush past so they can climb on.
Ticks need to be removed immediately. The key thing is to make sure you pull out the entire tick without leaving the head or any other part behind burrowed in your skin. The best way to do this is with tweezers.
It is very unlikely that you’ll come across any scorpions but they do exist. The Lesser Brown Scorpion is the one to avoid in the Daintree as it is venomous. It is difficult to see as it blends in with its environment and its also nocturnal so its unlikely to be out and about during the day.
Mosquitoes and sand flies are the scourge of the rainforest and are mostly found near creeks, rivers and swamp areas. To avoid being bitten, always spray yourself thoroughly with insect repellent before heading off into the rainforest.
Australia is a haven for snakes but most of the 43 species that live in the Wet Tropics are not venomous.
In general snakes are not aggressive and they will retreat if they hear you walking along. Just be careful to avoid poking around hollow logs, huge piles of leaves and rock crevices.
If you do happen to surprise a snake while walking, just stand still until the snake passes.
If you are bitten by a snake, take note of what the snake looks like (to tell the hospital) and then immediately apply a broad pressure bandage to the area and head straight to the hospital.
If you’re not a North Queenslander you might be surprised to hear that pigs are something to watch out for in the tropical rainforest. However feral pigs were introduced by early white settlers and they are a major pest both to farmers and to the environment.
Luckily they have a good sense of hearing and smell so they will generally avoid you if you’re out bushwalking. However, if you do come across one, especially a mother with piglets, stay well away.
They have a horn-like crest on the top of their head and a large dagger-sharp claw on the bottom of each foot.
If threatened they jump up and kick towards their predator with their claw, which can cause serious injury.
If you encounter a cassowary in the rainforest, slowly back away and put your arms high in the air to make yourself look as tall as possible and less of a threat.
Holding an umbrella high above your head also works.
travel nq fast facts:
- Wear covered shoes
- Spray yourself in insect repellent