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Fraser Island Fauna Survey

Since departing Fraser Island 16 years ago, it was great to get back there earlier this year to renew acquaintanceships with old friends and make some new ones. I was over to assist a good friend and retired herpetologist, Harald Ehmann, to look for the endangered Fraser Island endemic, the Fraser Island Sand Skink Coggeria naufragus. I was on the island from the 8-13 February this year and Harald three days longer.

During this time, and thanks to the willing cooperation of the local QPWS rangers and management, we had a very productive stay based out of the Central Station barracks, where I first started my QPWS career over 22 years ago. During my recent stay we were greatly assisted by the voulnteers, local rangers and QPWS staff from our Maryborough and Rainbow Beach offices. To them, Harald and I owe our great appreciation for what proved to be a very productive and enjoyable island sojourn. Thanks, everyone, we couldn’t have done it without you.

As stated above we were hoping to capture specimens of the Fraser Island Sand Skink and to these ends established several pit-fall sites around Central Station, Lake Mackenzie and along Dillinghams Road. The sites chosen were in areas where I’d had success in trapping this lizard when I worked on the island all those years ago. But, alas, the skink wasn’t cooperating on this occasion and it wasn’t until Harald’s last day that he eventually managed to catch and photograph this enigmatic reptile; a single lizard from the start of the walk from Central Station to Basin Lake. The lizard was released unharmed at the site of capture and Harald and his partner Helen were able to catch the barge for home with a sense of achievement on that afternoon.

From a personal viewpoint it was good to see a lot of the critters peculiar to Great Sandy that I’d not seen for many years. These included such reptilian oddities as Cooloola Blind Snake Anilios silvia (Australia’s smallest native snake), the legless burrowing Cooloola Snake-skink Ophioscincus cooloolensis and the tiny iridescent Elf Skink Eroticoscincus graciloides. In all, we recorded thirteen reptile species during our stay that comprised eight species of lizard and five snakes. We also did some incidental recording of birds and mammals, although nothing of particular interest presented itself from these groups. Still I never tire of seeing Noisy Pittas!

Whilst the vertebrate fauna of Fraser Island is fairly well documented, the invertebrate fauna is little known and on this trip we spent quite a bit of time getting to know these “spineless wonders” of the animal world.  Our pit-fall lines turned up some of the island’s specialities in this respect including the bizarre Cooloola Monster Cooloola propator; one of the world’s largest earwigs the Colossus Earwig Titanolabis colossea and good numbers of Toowoomba Funnelweb Spiders Hadronyche infensa.

Hillier'sKatydid

Hilliers’ Katydid (Photo: Robert Ashdown)

In the last few years, I’ve become very interested in the Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) and this trip provided a bonanza of new species for my personal list; including the giant Coastal Petaltail Petalura litoria from the wet heathland transected by Fig Tree Creek. Lounging the afternoon away with good companions on the verandah of the Central Station barracks provided our best finds of the trip in the crepuscular arrival of two insects. The first was the rarely encountered Coastal Evening Darner Telephlebia tryoni, a dragonfly that prefers the shadows of evening to the bright sunshine of day beloved by most of its brethren. The second visitor proved a very significant find indeed. It was a katydid that I’d never seen before and this is not to be wondered at for this turned out to be only the third record ever of this insect according to the katydid guru Dr. David Rentz.

I sent David pictures of the katydid that he identified as Hiller’s Katydid Diastella hilleri of which only two previous specimens were known to science; one from Blackdown Tableland and the second from Mt. Glorious. This was a very important find and put the icing on the cake to a great week. Space doesn’t allow me to the luxury of more details but I’m certainly looking forward to getting back to Fraser Island again one day soon.  It’s a great place to be.

Contributed by Rod Hobson, Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service, Toowoomba


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