Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland – Tully/Hinchinbrook

October 19, 2017

Pied imperial-pigeon

The Tully/Hinchinbrook branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland (WPSQ) has been around since 1980. Group president Suzie Smith says it was formed in response to pressures from development, and an absence of environmental groups in the Southern Wet Tropics.

“I was a high school teacher in Tully at the time, and there was nothing available for people to engage with the environment. I had a group of very bright students in their senior years and I thought if we started something, they could get involved. I don’t know that it had a profound effect on them, but those boys were the inspiration behind the branch and they’ve all gone on to do a great deal of good in the environmental space.”

The group’s first major project was to lobby for the expansion of two national parks. After 10 years of hard work WPSQ were successful! The parks were expanded to allow for an entire catchment, from source to sea, to be protected and managed. They encompass the entire Hull River Catchment in what's known today as the Hull River National Park. It extends from Mount Mackay to Kennedy Bay, south of Mission beach. Suzie says it remains one of their proudest achievements.

Today, WQPS focus on local environmental projects within the Cassowary Coast and Hinchinbrook LGA. The projects address threats to threatened species including the Mahogany Glider, and Southern Cassowary and Pied imperial-pigeon, and are primarily achieved through local community engagement activities with schools, landholders and Traditional Owners.

A notable long term engagement activity is ongoing involvement in managing the pigeon count at the Brook Islands. The count was started 53 years ago by conservationists Margaret and Arthur Thorsborne, making it the longest annual monitoring program for any bird in Australia. Three counts happen each year, funding permitting, with the latest count starting this week. Pigeon pairs nesting on the islands take it in turns to fly to the mainland each day to feed, travelling in flocks, and are counted in the afternoon as they return to the breeding colony.

WPSQ have played a role in establishing other community groups such as C4, the Johnstone River Ecological Society, and the Mahogany Glider Recovery Team (which WPSQ are still key members of today). There’s only a few active members in the Cassowary Coast WPSW branch though, which limits in the types of projects they can undertake. One of their biggest challenges is managing projects and recruiting new active members who are interested in continuing the WPSQ legacy.

If you want to get involved, visit their website, Facebook group, or email cassowarycoast@wildlife.org.au