Over the forty-odd years I’ve known it, there’s been a tremendous change on the mountain. It was a farming community when I first knew it. Everyone farmed, unless they had a boarding house or a shop. But as the years have gone by more and more farming land has been sub-divided for houses and many people commute. They work down the coast or in Brisbane. Now when they move here, often they think this is going to be good; this will be very easy, driving down each day to work. But so often after a year or eighteen months they just find it’s too hard. They either need two cars or the wife is left at home. And there are children to get to school. The driving becomes tiring and expensive. Again and again they sell and move away.
THE KOOKABURRA’S DINNER
Nearly forty years ago, we came home from Brisbane one afternoon – it was pouring with rain – and there were two kookaburras just near the front gate, with a baby kookaburra on the ground.
The baby was injured; its wing broken in two places. We took him inside and put him in a cage in the laundry. The rain continued very heavily and we kept him there for several days. All the time he was in the laundry we were feeding him, with his parents watching through the window.
When the rain stopped we put the cage out into the garden and straight away his parents and another kookaburra, probably a sibling from the year before, began to feed him. After a few days we let him out of the cage so that he was free to roam around the garden.
The three birds continued to feed him – all day, every day. They fed him small snakes, a frog, some lizards, crickets and bats, just about anything. He was stuffed absolutely full. I remember one time he had a small snake coming out of each side of his mouth while his mother and father were trying to get him to take a mouse. He kept turning his back on them. And they kept hopping round trying to get him to take it.
Those three older kookaburras must have been quite well fed themselves – before they fed the young bird. They brought him a snake each a day, and probably more. And they would have had one each, at least, every day. So for months there they must have been killing a great many snakes, as well as all the other creatures.
The young bird didn’t ever learn to fly. He had the run of the garden and he’d tuck himself away at night in a little hollow base and the others fed him for exactly 12 months.
He died suddenly. We found him dead one morning – we think it was a snake – and immediately the parents started to build another nest. They’d postponed their nesting that season because they were still feeding the baby. Immediately they built a nest and reared another young kookaburra.
One day the mother came with food to the house, as if to feed the first baby, the little injured one. Then she looked around and realised and flew off to the nest. She didn’t come back again.
Ranger In Charge of National Parks
Currently our streams contain over six native species and two introduced species. People releasing exotic fish into our streams is something we’ll have to watch closely in the future, along with the issue of introduced plants and animals, like hares and feral pigs, and the impacts they have on the bush.
We are very fortunate at Tamborine to have some very healthy snake populations and the National Park staff do an incredible amount of snake relocation from private residences, particularly Carpet Pythons. Eighty per cent of our calls are for relocation of carpet snakes. Along with them you get a smattering of the venomous species, the Brown, the Red-bellied Black; a lot of Marsh Snakes, Small-eyed Snakes, Yellow-face Whips and even the odd Death Adder. So the snake populations are reasonably healthy; and this is due to two reasons.
First, the non-venomous species do well due to human habitation, housing and orchards, and the habitat this creates – living spaces and food sources, such as mice.
Second, is the fact that the cane toad hasn’t established itself to an extent where it is significantly affecting snake populations. Because of the altitude, Tamborine gets cold enough every year to significantly knock back the cane toad population. We find that in the open forests and on the escarpment, there is quite a large cane toad population. But on the plateau itself and in the rainforests the cane toad population is much reduced.
So we’ve got a very good and diverse snake population on the mountain.
SPOIL AND PILLAGE
The collection of plants from the bush is a big issue here at Tamborine. There is a lot of small-scale theft going on, which adds up to a large amount of things such as native orchids, staghorns, birdsnest ferns, small palm trees. . .
And there’s the stealing of animals. Probably the most alarming is theft of reptiles. We know that there’s some small-scale venomous snake collection. It is happening up here regularly during the summer months.
It’s a very hard issue to police. It comes back to relying on the community to give you the necessary information you need to try and apprehend the people involved in these activities.