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Nature, culture and history

Natural environment

Edmund Kennedy, Girramay National Park is within the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA). Proclaimed in 1988, the WTWHA extends for about 450 kilometres between Cooktown and Townsville. Consisting of nearly 900,000 hectares, vegetation is primarily tropical rainforest, but also includes open eucalypt forest, wetlands and mangrove forests. The WTWHA meets all four natural criteria for World Heritage listing. These criteria recognise the area’s exceptional natural beauty and the importance of its biological diversity and evolutionary history, including habitats for numerous threatened species. The WTWHA also has cultural significance for Aboriginal people who have traditional links with the area and its surrounds.

Plants

Many of the mangrove species known to occur in Australia are found at Edmund Kennedy, Girramay National Park. The red beech, with its distinctive red, flaking bark and large yellow flowers, is also common along with pandanus and melaleucas.

Animals

An array of birds and reptiles, such as orioles, sunbirds and lace monitor lizards, inhabit this area of the park. Look for birds in the tree tops or quietly listen for their calls. Along the edge of the walking tracks large mounds of leaves and sticks, raked up by orange-footed scrubfowl, are easily seen. Lace monitor lizards are often spotted basking in the sun or scurrying up tree limbs.

Girramay National Park protects essential habitat for the endangered southern cassowary. One of just three cassowary species in the world, it is Australia’s biggest rainforest animal. Although they prefer rainforest, cassowaries also visit woodlands, paperbark swamps, mangroves and even beaches looking for food.

The cassowary’s traditional feeding grounds have been seriously reduced by land clearing for farming, urban settlement and other development. In many areas surviving rainforests have been fragmented—broken into smaller parcels. This isolates cassowaries from breeding partners, food sources and water. If forced to move, cassowaries must then travel across open, developed areas. This increases the risk of them being struck by cars or attacked by dogs. Cassowaries isolated in these forest ‘islands are at risk of becoming locally extinct. The protection of cassowary habitat as part of Girramay National Park is an important contribution towards the protection of this iconic bird.

Girramay National Park also has pockets of essential habitat for the endangered mahogany glider. First described in 1883, the mahogany glider was overlooked for more than 100 years. In 1986, while relocating the Queensland Museum’s mammal reference library, mammal curator Steve Van Dyck, found three mysterious skins. Three years later scientists confirmed the rediscovery of the mahogany glider when they captured one near Tully.

The mahogany glider lives in open eucalypt forests between Tully and Bambaroo (south of Ingham). By day it sleeps in tree hollows; at night it glides from tree to tree, searching for food. Nectar, pollen and sap from a variety of plants are its favourites. It often travels long distances to feed on seasonal blossoms.

Clearing has reduced the gliders’ habitat to less than 20 per cent of its former size. The remaining habitat is fragmented and vulnerable to inappropriate fires and further clearing. The gazettal of Girramay National Park gives a high level of protection to more of the essential habitat for this ‘forgotten’ glider.

Culture and history

Indigenous culture

The Girramay people traditionally moved about this land according to the seasonal availability of food, often travelling west from the coast to the cooler, higher country in the wet season. For the Girramay people, this country was not only the home from which they gathered food and materials, it also sustained, and continues to sustain, their spirituality. Today, the Girramay people maintain their connection to country.

European history

In 1848, Edmund Kennedy and a party of 12 men landed at Tam O'Shanter Point, about 35 kilometres north of the park, to begin their ill-fated expedition to Cape York Peninsula. It was to be the first attempt by Europeans to explore overland to the top of the cape. This section of coastline has changed little since Edmund Kennedy’s expedition.

Kennedy initially travelled south, through what is now Edmund Kennedy, Girramay National Park in search of a way through the ranges behind the coast. Moving inland at Meunga Creek, Kennedy's progress was impeded by swamps and mangroves as well as disease and disagreements with local Aboriginals.

After a gruelling journey northwards, over six months later Kennedy was killed in an altercation with Aboriginals near the tip of Cape York Peninsula, only a short distance from his rendezvous point with the supply ship Ariel. The only member of the exploring party to reach the top was a young Aboriginal man, Jacky Jacky. He and two other men were the only survivors of the expedition.

Last updated
10 May 2017