Cassowaries and sugar gliders: Yasi's animal victims bounce back
On February 3 last year, the biggest cyclone in memory smashed into the Far North Queensland coast. Residents lost their homes, farmers lost their crops and businesses lost their livelihoods. How is the impact zone faring one year on?
In Tully Heads terns are nesting on the battered foreshore, cassowary chicks stalk after their fathers at Mission Beach and tiny baby turtles lay, un-hatched, under the sand.
The jungle canopy is a long way from full recovery but rainforest flowers are beginning to bloom and the wet has seen an insect boom, creating a buffet for native birds and mammals.
Even the endangered mahogany glider has managed to breed, despite the utter devastation to their habitat.
A groundswell of wildlife volunteers, working with State Government departments have been working against the impacts of Yasi, trying to make life easier for the creatures by cutting up fruit, installing den boxes for gliders and replanting native rainforest trees since the storm.
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In December, a two-year $825,000 program kicked off, with natural resource management groups and indigenous rangers working to improve glider and cassowary habitat through revegetation, fire control and fencing.
Kennedy-based mahogany glider carer Daryl Dickson says cyclone Yasi put the endangered mahogany glider in the spotlight and though they are still struggling, for the first time a dedicated plan is being worked on to ensure their survival.
"It is not all good news yet," she said.
"We are not sure how many mahogany gliders we lost to Yasi. At the moment we are concentrating on their future by looking after habitat corridors and maintaining connectivity."
Three sugar gliders, an echidna, two metallic starlings, three fig birds, one white-breasted wood swallow and a nutmeg mannequin sheltered from Yasi in Mission Beach woman Sal Badcock’s bathroom.
A year later there are just as many animals at her house, though some of the ones that went through Yasi have been released back into the wild. She says replanting native plants is the best thing people can do to help wildlife, especially birds recovering from the storm.
"After the cyclone a huge number of birds were being brought to carers; most had flown into windows because they were starving and had nowhere to shelter.
"The lack of forest also meant butcher birds and other raptors were having a great time with the smaller ones – they didn’t stand a chance and were being killed.
"The best thing people can do is replant native trees so these animals have cover and a food source; check with local nurseries and see what is appropriate."
It’s a message being echoed by Sal’s husband Kim who has started work for the Cassowary Coast Regional Council as the Coastal Management facilitator.
A report post Yasi showed more than $4 million was needed to restore and rehabilitate the region’s beaches and foreshores, with more than 70 per cent "extensively damaged".
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Undefeated: A host of native animals took up residence in Sal Badcock’s Mission Beach bathroom during cyclone Yasi while mahogany gliders have managed to breed despite the destruction to their habitat.