Austrop: Australian Tropical Research Foundation


Austrop Research Station
Situated in the heart of Cape Tribulation the Research Station and Bat House sit off the main road, opposite P.K’s backpackers, on 8.5 hectares of reclaimed and rehabilitated Rainforest. Originally a cleared block of land, the numerous volunteers, interns and researchers have helped the AUSTROP team to return the area to its former glory.

Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation, on the Coral Sea off far-north Queensland, Australia, is about 120 km north of Cairns, at 16 S, 145E (about the same latitude as Costa Rica but in the S hemisphere). It is in the Daintree tropical lowlands, considered to be the “jewel” of the Australian Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. This is a very special area of rainforest sandwiched between the coastal fringing reef (and the Great Barrier Reef) and the coastal mountain range (which rises to over 1000 meters (3,000 feet)). The area has a wide variety of habitats from coastal reefs to tropical rainforest.

Backing the area is the coastal range, which varies in altitude from 700-1,348 meters. This range has a major impact on local weather and is the cause of exceedingly high precipitation in the region (4 meters per annum on average). The climate is seasonally wet with a monsoon-influenced wet season from January to May and a dry season from June to January.

Flora and fauna in the Daintree Region
Unique flora and fauna exist in this part of the world including crocodiles, cassowaries, fruit bats and tree kangaroos. Many of these animals and some of the plants are threatened or endemic. Primary threats to this area are invasive species, particularly the introduction weeds, which have spread across wide areas. Unfortunately, in addition to the stunning scenery and unique wildlife, the area suffers from significant loss of habitat for fauna, especially due to land clearing for ‘development’.

The rainforest in the Daintree Region is estimated to be 135 million year old, making it arguably the oldest and most primitive rainforest in the world. This area is often described as a tropical paradise ‘where the rainforest meets the reef’. Many of the species still here originated 120 million years ago when Australia was still part of the ancient landmass of Gondwana. The Wet Tropics rainforests (From Cooktown to Townsville) contains:

  • Over 3,500 vascular plant species;
  • Australia's largest range of ferns and the world's largest concentration of ancient flowering plants;
  • The highest number of endemic mammals of any region in Australia;
  • Almost half of Australia's bird species;
  • Nearly a quarter of Australia's frog species, more than 20 of which are endemic;
  • A greater diversity of freshwater fish than any other region in Australia;
  • Outstanding invertebrate diversity, including well over 60% of Australia's butterflies

(Source: Wet Tropics Region NRM Plan, Statement of Planning Intent - Rainforest CRC 2002)

Despite this amazing diversity, this rainforest only represents 0.1% of Australian land. It is thus vital that we conserve this extremely small and vulnerable - but infinitely unique – environment. © 1988 - 2015 -