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Working on the Wetland—Keatings Lagoon, Cooktown

Wetlands on Cape York are very important because they are a filter for water flowing from land to the Great Barrier Reef, they are a refuge and a breeding ground for many different animal species, and also home to many aquatic species, both plants and animals. Some threats to coastal wetlands are feral animals, erosion, pollution, fire, and loss of oxygen in the water from aquatic weeds. Along with the threats comes the problems or issues caused, such as a decrease in native animal and plant species and a decline in water quality.

Traditional Owners, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), Cape York Weeds and Feral Animals Inc, and South Cape York Catchments have been working to protect Keatings Lagoon since 2007. As it’s a coastal wetland, it’s home to many native plants and animals. Before a fence was built protecting the area, feral pigs and cattle were doing a good job of destroying the amazing wetland. The fence was put up in 2008 to keep pigs and other feral animals out, and the wetland bounced back to health.

Throughout the year of 2020 people have worked to do everything in their power to make Keatings Lagoon weed and pest free.

Myself, the other two trainees Ben and Angus, our coordinator Jason, and Robert from QPWS have worked together, spraying hymenachne after the wet season, trapping and removing pigs that broke through the fence, and doing cool early burns to minimise the fuel load inside the lagoon.

It is important to remove the feral pigs so they do no further damage by digging in the wetland and eating native animals and plants, and to control the hymenachne to reduce its spreading into Keatings Lagoon or going further down our rivers.

Good fire management around wetland areas to minimise the threat of wildfires is important, as these special habitats are not supposed to have fire in them. Late season wildfires can destroy the vegetation on the edges of the water, making erosion in the wet season more likely.

At the start of my traineeship I had a bit of an idea how everything works and how it all happens, but my time with South Cape York Catchments has helped me to learn heaps of new things. Our Conservation and Land Management (CALM) Trainee Team has worked with different people from different areas and organisations. It’s been such a good experience working with Robert from QPWS at Keatings Lagoon, watching the wetland become less damaged by feral animals and weeds. Knowing I was a part of helping the wetland thrive this year is one of the best feelings. I would like to say a huge thank you to Robert at QPWS for giving his time and helping us learn new things along our journey, it’s been a pleasure.

This story was written by Charmaine Hill at the conclusion of her twelve-month Conservation and Land Management traineeship with South Cape York Catchments.

Cape York NRM congratulates the CALM students on a successful year and wishes you all well with your future in sustainable land management.