To most of us, quietly watching and listening to the animals of the rainforest can be most satisfying. The different layers of the forest are alive by day with Whipbirds cracking, small lizards scurrying, harmless green tree snakes sliding, pigeons feeding in the tree tops, and ants crawling patiently on the trunks. By night a different group of animals become active: possums and gliders move among the branches, frogs hunt for insects, and owls and frogmouths search for their prey.
To scientists, the Eungella animals are not only good to watch – they are a fascinating puzzle, for many mysteries remain. The long isolation of Eungella from other rainforest areas has made the animal community unique. Animals that cannot live away from the dense shelter and particular foods of the rainforest have long been cut off from others of their kind. Only those such as Carpet Pythons and Grey Fantails, which can also live happily in the drier open forest, have been able to mix and breed with `outsiders’.
For the rainforest specialists, the Eungella community is the entire world. Though many of these species found at Eungella are widespread in other rainforest areas of Southern or Northern Queensland, or throughout the State, often the Eungella animals are distinctively different in appearance. They may be called special `races’ or in some cases `subspecies’. For example, the Brown Thornbills and White Throated Treecreepers of Eungella belong to subspecies that live nowhere else.
Other animal species are unique to Eungella. Of the five new species of birds discovered in Australia over the last 50 years, one is a small Grey-brown Honeyeater named the Eungella Honeyeater (Lichenostomus hindwoodi). It lives only in the Eungella rainforests, where it feeds on nectar and insects. Frog experts were excited to find the Eungella Gastric Brooding Frog (Rheobatrachus vitellinus) – one of the few frogs that incubates eggs in its stomach and `spits’ out the young. The Eungella Day Frog (Taudactylus eungellensis) and the Liem’s Day Frog (Taudactylus liemi), also unique to Eungella, are unusual, as they are most active in daylight, and can be seen in the rocky creek beds of the Finch Hatton Gorge and Broken River tributaries. The Orange-sided Skink (Sphenomorphus luteilateralis) is a rainforest lizard found only at Eungella.
The tall open forest that borders the rainforest is home to many animals, some of which can be frequently spotted in the nearby picnic areas. The thick blady grass understorey is the home of the Native Swamp Rat and the Rufous Bettong, a small member of the kangaroo family that is active at night. Other mammals that can be seen at night include the Greater Glider, Feathertail and the Sugar Gliders, and two colour forms of the Brushtail Possum. The tall, open forest is home for many birds such as the Rainbow Lorikeet, Kookaburra, Currawong, Red-browed Finch and Blue-faced Honeyeater, just to name a few.