Aussie animals in North Queensland’s iconic wet tropics are facing extinction at an unprecedented rate after the hottest summer on record. Welcome to the coral bleaching of the rainforest.

Spanning Townsville, Cairns, and Cooktown, the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is the world’s oldest rainforest. So old in fact, that it’s ranked as the second most irreplaceable World Heritage Area on earth, and the sixth most irreplaceable protected area, largely because of its endemic species.

But now our furry friends are at risk. The Lemuroid ringtail possum is at risk of extinction by 2022. There are others at risk too, including the Herbert River ringtail possum, green ringtail possum, and bird species such as the tooth-billed bowerbird.

The warning comes from the board of the Wet Tropics Management Authority and stem from a research report from the Centre for Tropical Environment and Sustainability Science at James Cook University.

Here’s what they have to say. But fair warning. It ain’t pretty:

‘Extreme heat is the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area’s coral bleaching event equivalent, with some species, like the Lemuroid ringtail possum, unable to survive even a day of temperatures above 29 degrees Celsius. Mount Bartle Frere, (the highest mountain in the Wet Tropics), recorded an unprecedented 39 degrees Celsius at its peak on six days this past summer.

The Board is convinced that, given the evidence, these key species endemic to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area are under severe and immediate threat from climate change. This is occurring now, not in the future, and requires an immediate response. With current trends, the world is locked into 20 years of increasing temperatures. Action and significant investment is needed to reduce other threats now to ensure these areas are as robust as possible to withstand those increasing temperatures.’

If that doesn’t help persuade us that immediate action is needed, then nothing will. Luckily, they’re all over it and have put together a 10-point-plan which includes practical steps that can start making a difference right now.

The steps include things like land restoration, more in-depth monitoring, pest management, threatened species listing, more research and innovation, and fire. They’re also calling for urgent action on reducing global emissions.

But to make it happen they need funding and support from industry, governments, and – in their words – all people who cherish the best of the best natural and culturally significant areas Australia has to offer. Find out more here.


Feature photo by Scout Hinchcliffe

Explore more in Queensland

Mini-Hike To A Mountain View // Mt Barney National Park (QLD)

Rockhop To Stairway Falls // Lamington National Park (QLD)

Early Risin’ // Sunrise On Flinders Peak (QLD)