Dolphins, Dingoes And A House Call For A Sick Pandanus Tree

As early April rolled into Easter, it’s been all hands on deck at the resort as we’ve welcomed guests from all over the globe to our sandy shores for a spot of R&R.  April signals the start of winter Myrtaceae wildflower season for us on Fraser and we’ve noticed our gorgeous Swamp Mahogany (Eucalpytus robusta), Blue Gums (Eucalyptus globulus) and Paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia) start to bloom over the last few weeks.

As one would expect, our Honeyeaters and autumn birds are taking full advantage of the veritable feast on offer.  Eagle-eyed bird watchers are most likely to see the easily recognisable male Scarlet Honeyeaters (Myzomela sanguinolenta) and the inquisitive Eastern Yellow Robins (Eopsaltria australis) – as the name suggests, look for yellow underparts - darting through the resort grounds.

That's what we call a ferry ride AND a show!
We’ve had a few grey days on island, but with more than 80% of the state now drought-declared and off the back of one of the driest summers the Fraser Coast has seen in decades; we certainly have welcomed the rainfall.

This month, guests on our ferry service from Hervey Bay were treated to some fun displays as pods of inquisitive Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) put on acrobatic displays in the Great Sandy Strait.  Photographer, Mark Pryor, was quick enough to capture the action – which was a highlight on his first every trip to Fraser Island and brightened up one of those aforementioned grey days.  Even the fisherfolk and resort guests enjoying a tipple at the Jetty Hut, have seen these animals feeding and playing near the end of the resort’s jetty.

Now, from dancing dolphins to Pandanus Planthoppers... 

Ranger Gordon inoculates our sick tree
We all know that if you have a sick pet, you call a vet… but what do you do when you’ve got a sick tree?  Well, this month Queensland Parks made an unexpected house call to the resort to help us inoculate our Pandanus trees against the dreaded Pandanus Planthopper (Jamella australiae) insect.

DID YOU KNOW: Pandanus trees have cultural significance to the Aboriginal people? They are virtually a one-stop-shop for shade, medicine, tools and food - their nutlike fruit tastes a bit like peanuts when it ripens to a deep orangey colour.

The Pandanus (Pandanus spp), or Screw Pine as it is sometimes called, is native to the east coast of Australia, in fact, there are 17 species in Queensland alone.  Planthopper insects, however, are endemic to Tropical North Queensland. Up in the tropics, these insect populations are kept in check by a native parasitic wasp (Aphanomerus sp.) that lays its eggs in the Planthopper egg rafts (see below). As the wasp larvae hatch, they eat the Planthoppers and the natural balance is restored.

Planthopper eggs on a Pandanus tree
In other parts of Australia – like Fraser Island - we don’t have the TNQ wasp species and these small 8mm insects can cause significant damage to our beautiful trees.  This primarily occurs when they feed on the tree’s sap and then secrete a sticky substance which in turns promotes mould growth and a generally weakening of the tree.

Rangers Gordon and Jenna have treated Pandanus throughout the Great Sandy National Park and arrived at Kingfisher to help our gardeners inoculate our trees.  Generally, there are three main control methods – chemical, physical and biological – and so the team stripped the trees of the affected/dead leaves (physical) before injecting an insecticide in the outer trees (chemical) – which forms a barrier.  Inoculation, however, is not seen by the scientific community as a long term solution, so the QPWS team are trailblazing for the region by developing a management plan and by looking to securing funding for an effective biological solution – introducing a wasp breeding program to control the Planthopper population.

Will our temperate climes be warm enough to sustain this breeding program? Watch this space!

Canoe-eye-view. Thanks to Vanessa and Matt for the share
And to round out a busy month, we end on the news that the Dingo (Canis dingo) has been given its own species status, recognising that it is not descended from dogs or wolves as once thought. Australian Geographic, in a recently published article, wrote: “Canis dingo was the scientific name originally proposed; however, as scientists struggled to establish exactly how the Dingo came to inhabit Australia, or determine its genetic lineage, other names such as Canis lupus dingo (indicating a connection to the wolf - lupus) and Canis familiaris dingo (implying domestication) were used.”

A Fraser Island Dingo, by any name, is still a magnificent creature, so you can imagine our delight when we came across one of these magnificent creatures whilst on a Ranger-guided canoe paddle to Dundonga Creek recently.  We’re not sure who was watching whom, but it was a great, iconic island experience that absolutely blew us away – as the photos show.

Stay tuned Tree Huggers, who knows what’s in store next month!