June 9, 2015

Winter In Our Wild Fraser Island Paradise

The first day of winter officially kicked in on 1 June with Tasmanian’s scraping the ice from their windscreens, Victorians rugging up and Humpbacks (Megatera novaengliae) cavorting off the east coast (and in the Great Sandy Strait as of June 9).

Closer to Kingfisher Bay Resort, Fraser Islanders are experiencing El Nińio-like conditions - for the first month of winter, the Fraser Coast is expecting mild weather with a maximum average temperature of 24 degrees - and spent the change of season swimming in the warm waters of our perched dune lakes.

As you can see below, we absolutely love winter in our sub-tropical paradise!
Here's how we're wintering at gorgeous Lake Birrabeen - part of the island's Southern Lakes Circuit.  
The resort's Ranger team also love answering your questions about the island’s ecology and history as well as its flora and fauna. I wanted to share a question asked recently by one of our visiting media and some interesting observations from ‘people in the know’.

What are the biggest threats to Fraser Island and its fragile eco systems? We have to say that climate change is the biggest long-term threat. According to Fraser Island Defenders Association project officer, John Sinclair, Fraser Island is as far north as species such as blackbutt and scribbly gums grow. Mr Sinclair says if the climate gets hotter, you can expect them to move south and the great forests to eventually disappear from the island.

Fraser Island's glorious eastern coastline.
Not surprisingly, the world’s biggest sand island is shaped by strong onshore winds, weather and ocean currents which sweep sand north from the continental shelf in NSW – by its very nature, is in a constant start of change.  It is a no-brainer then that future rises in sea levels will have a significant impact on our easily erodible shoreline.

DID YOU KNOW that Fraser Island is currently expanding?  Incredibly, locals on the island’s eastern beach have recently reported, that over the past 50 years, the island has actually increased outwards by up to 50 metres in some places like around Eurong, where our sister resort is located.  

University of Queensland Professor, James Shulmeister, is leading a team of researchers to find out exactly how much the island has grown over the past 50 years or so.  Professor Shulmeister told the local Fraser Coast Chronicle newspaper that it was reasonable to expect some growth during El Nińio events, as the cooler ocean temperatures keep tropical storms at bay and allow for sand deposits to grow in the short term.

Professor Shulmeister agrees that the bigger climate change picture will see the island becoming leaner.  His research team is currently studying the dunes at Rainbow Beach (off the southern end of Fraser) and will work their way over to Fraser Island in the next few months where they’ll be studying the still-visible traces of old beaches (showing 125,000 year-old high sea levels).  WATCH THIS SPACE!

Whilst we’ve been chatting about bigger picture impacts, the question remains, what can we do in the short term?   As one of the major tourism operators on island, we believe that in the short term human impact needs to be suitably managed – not just visitor numbers, but by behaviours.  It seems common sense, but these are our top THREE worst visitor behaviours in the national park…

Volunteers during the annual island clean up
1. Dumping rubbish: Flotsam and jetsam washing ashore are inevitable on any coastline, but it is the non-perishable rubbish that campers and visitors careless throw into our World Heritage-listed bushland that is most heartbreaking.  A big thumbs up to the Four Wheel Drive Queensland club members who recently conducted a grand-scale clean up – an annual event - to cart away the rubbish that accumulates on island.  Over three days, the group collected plastic, netting, bottles and beer cans, and incredibly, thousands of toothbrushes discarded by careless campers.


Please don't feed Fraser's wild animals

2. Interacting with and feeding wildlife:
  Don't do it. It really doesn’t get any simpler than that!  According to Queensland Parks and Wildlife "the good natural food that dingoes find on Fraser Island and the energy they use to patrol their territories, hunt, mate and generally live from day to day, means they are naturally lean.  They tell all visitors not to be tricked into feeding a dingo because you think it looks hungry. Some leaner dingoes may be juveniles just starting out on their own or, if older, may be subordinate animals in the pack hierarchy." You are not doing them - or fellow visitors in the national park - any favours by feeding them.

3 Stay on Track: From a guest perspective, our company’s commitment is to provide a unique and memorable ecotourism experience.  Our resort Ranger team and tour guides (for Fraser Explorer Tours and Cool Dingo Tours) are passionate about the island and go to great lengths to tell visitors to stay on the designated pathways and tracks (there’s plenty of interpretive signage on the island to give you more information).  Not only do you minimise your risk of injury, but you preserve natural settings, do less damage to the fragile eco-systems and won’t contribute to erosion problems.

There’s plenty of Fraser Island to love and by modifying our behaviour, we’ll ensure it’s kept pristine for future generations.  Until next time, tree-huggers, this is Ranger J signing off.

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