Hidden Beauty – Reptiles and Amphibians

When you think of Australia, you often think of dangerous animals, especially if you’ve read Bill Bryson’s Down Under. Last week we went for a walk around Cattana Wetlands close to where we are staying near Cairns. They had this information about snakes:

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So 20 of the world’s most venomous snakes are found in Australia and 4 of the top 5 in Queensland! They also put up some helpful photos of said snakes with more information on their size, diet, strength of venom etc.

From these posters we learnt that Queensland is home to the longest python at up to 8.5 metres, the fastest striker and the one responsible for the most snake bite deaths in Australia. Thankfully we only saw one of the 20 – the Red-bellied Black Snake – and it wasn’t interested in us. Snakes are dangerous – the third biggest killer animal in the world after mosquitoes and humans – but in Australia only 2 people per year die from snake bites and many bites occur when people pick a snake up. Horses, cows and dogs kill lots more people here (and in most other places). A little education goes a long way.

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I guess the Crocodile is one of the other reptiles that a lot of people fear. Queensland has many beautiful beaches, but we didn’t venture into the water, however tempting, as there are warnings of crocodiles everywhere:

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Saltwater, or Estuarine Crocodiles, commonly known as Salties, are one of the few remaining links to the prehistoric past.  They have reigned as key predators in wetlands and estuaries for millions of years and play a valuable role in the health of the marine environment. Males can grow to up to 4 metres and weigh between 200 and 300 kg. Females are a little smaller. While we were in Daintree, there were none on the river banks as the water was so warm there was no need for them to sun themselves to raise their body temperature. However, we were lucky enough to see a couple in the water.

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On land we saw a variety of really fabulous lizards. This Frill-necked Lizard was happy to pose for photos, but reluctant to display his frill.

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The Boyd’s Forest Dragon also stayed pretty still, despite a few photographers zooming in on him. He lives in the rainforest hanging out on tree trunks. His body is about 15cm and his tail up to 30cm long. Unlike most reptiles, he doesn’t need to bask in the sun, instead he allows his body temperature to fluctuate with air temperatures, known as thermoconforming.

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The most commonly seen reptile in our travels has been the Monitor Lizard. These are Lace Monitors (also known as Lace Goannas), which forage for food on the ground and up in trees. They are the largest Goanna Lizards in Queensland and can grow up to 2 metres long. They eat insects, reptiles, birds, eggs, small mammals, and carrion and can walk up to 3 km a day looking for food. An interesting fact – they lay their eggs in termite mounds, where they make a hole for the eggs and then leave the hole for termites to repair.

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Close up they have beautifully patterned skin and long sharp claws to help them climb trees.

The last reptile we saw and the one I was most excited about finding, was the Leaf-tailed Gecko. I used my spotting torch and found two way up high on a tree; sadly too far away to photograph. They are seriously cool-looking beasts. I’ve googled a couple of pics for you here…

From reptiles to amphibians – we found a few different frogs while staying in the rainforest and managed to take photos of a few. The first two were at the Daintree Village B&B. The White’s Tree Frog just sat on the terrace for ages and was in danger of being stepped on as it looked like a leaf.

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There were lots of tiny rocket frogs hanging out by the pool, so-called because they have a huge jump compared to their small size:

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At Lake Eacham in the Atherton Tablelands we found a Green-eyed Tree Frog – he’s a master of camouflage with colouring designed to look like a lichen-covered rock :

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I loved the frogs, lizards and geckos, but was very happy not to have encountered more snakes.

 

 

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