The Sunshine Coast is a biodiversity hotspot, home to more than 700 animal species including 7 turtles, 6 types of whales, over 300 bird varieties and 43 different of frogs. Almost 30% of the animals found in the region (198 species) have been classified as significant – that is they are either listed as rare or endangered under state or federal legislation, are unique to the Sunshine Coast (endemic species) or our region represents their southern or northern most boundary.
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Introducing the fauna of the Sunshine Coast
We are indeed fortunate to have so much wildlife around us and to live in a region where it is not uncommon to spot a humpback whale (Megapera novaeangliae) from your favourite surfspot or to see a koala (Phascolarctus cinereus) in the middle of suburbia. If you are lucky you might hear the call of a glossy black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathamii lathami ) from the comfort of your back verandah and loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) still nest on the beaches right up and down our coastline.
Unfortunately, by living in such close proximity to humans, many animals get injured through digesting plastic and other discarded items, boat strikes, car collisions etc. If you see injured wildlife please contact Wildlife Volunteers (www.wilvos.org.au – 07 5441 6200 24 hrs / 365 days)
These are just some examples of the amazing variety of animals that live in our region.
The Richmond Birdwing Butterfly is one of Australia’s largest butterflies (12-16 cm). It once occurred from Maryborough to Grafton but is now restricted to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland and the North Eastern tip of NSW. The decline of the species is due to the loss of habitat in particular for the caterpillar who feed only on two plants (the lowland Richmond birdwing vine (Pararistolochia praevenosa) and the mountain aristolochia (Pararistolochia laheyana)).
In the acidic bogs of our coastal plains live a family of frogs collectively known as the wallum frogs. These amphibians have evolved to cope with the low pH of the acid sulphate soils uniquely found along the South East Coast of Queensland. All species in this family are vulnerable as their habitat (wallum heathland) has been steadily cleared to make way for urban development.
At the Sunshine Coast airport lives a population of the endangered ground parrot (Pezoporus wallicus). One of only five ground dwelling parrot species in the world this bird has survived in on the Sunshine Coast thanks to the airports perimeter fence protecting it from foxes and cats.
The waters of the Sunshine Coast are just as rich as our land area. Among the many treasures the region has to offer are over 500 species of Nudibrancs (seaslugs). Most of these are not included in the official 700+ species of the coast and many of these are not yet described by the scientific community. We know about them thanks to the passionate pursuit of the team at nudibranchs.com.au who have been scouring our waters for over 15 years looking for these beautiful creatures.
The Sunshine Coast was also home to one of the most extraordinary creatures on earth – the Gastric Brooding Frog or Platypus Frog (Rheobatrachus). First discovered in the Conondales in 1972 this frog was only 5 cm long and spend its entire live in water. The young of this species were brooded by the female in her stomach and regurgitated after six weeks. This is unique in the entire animal kingdom. Sadly this species was last sighted in the Blackall Range in 1981 and is believed to be extinct.
Like the Gastric Brooding Frog many animals on the Sunshine Coast are under enormous pressure from human activity. Almost 60% of the regions vegetation has been cleared for urban or agricultural purposes. Much of the remaining vegetation is criss-crossed by roads, powerlines and other infrastructure making it harder for animals to move around. In our waterways species have long suffered from diminishing water quality and increased human activity on the water.
It is these encounters with wildlife that remind us that with a bit of forethought and a bit of compassion it is possible to create a community where humans and animals can co-exist. It is this vision that we seek to keep foremost in our minds in our advocacy work.
The Sunshine Coast Council has published a list of significant fauna species which can be accessed from their website.