Our Natural City

Bizarrely, I’d always assigned wildlife and ‘real’ nature to National Parks, even though I live in one of Australia’s most biodiverse cities. That changed two years ago, when I noticed a butterfly: electric blue triangles flapping around, framed by black.

I began seeing them often – the Blue Triangle Butterfly, native to South East Queensland. There were others: fist-sized, black, white spots (Common Crow); the stained glass Monarch; bright yellow ones, white ones. That summer of 2017 the coast erupted with thousands of little striped butterflies blown in from migration – and my attention to the natural world was caught.

Helen the Butterfly Woman

Inspired, I visited Helen Schwencke in Brisbane (an hour north of the Gold Coast) for an article about butterflies. Her suburban house was like something from a fantasy world. Newly emerged butterflies hung, drying their wings, in plastic containers on her kitchen table. Sipping tea, we watched the bright green cocoon of a Blue Triangle butterfly while Helen explained that centuries ago Brisbane was prime habitat for butterflies in SEQ. Now her butterfly garden with its native food plants is a valuable stopover for those species travelling through the city.

“Landowners play a critical role in supporting (and enjoying) our wildlife, no matter the size of the property.”

Like the butterflies, there’s much more to intrigue and fascinate us right outside our doorsteps than we’re aware of, and a growing relationship with this world is important to healthy ecosystems and balanced human development in the future. While there are designated protected areas on the Gold Coast, the habitat in lowland areas (Gold Coast backyards) is just as important to biodiversity and ecosystem health, and can be just as enjoyable as visiting a national park.

This is because nature is still nature, even after it’s sold. In fact, most of this city’s habitat is found on private land, according to major land care group Land for Wildlife. That means landowners play a critical role in supporting (and enjoying) our wildlife, no matter the size of the property.

All Backyards Great and Small

Twenty-year Land for Wildlife members Wal and Heather are seeing more wildlife on their property after they helped it transform from a degraded 25-hectare ex-banana farm to regenerating native bushland and rainforest.

“The last twenty years have been an absolute joy,” they write in last month’s Land for Wildlife SEQ newsletter. “A beautiful ecosystem has built up around us. Our girls were surrounded by nature and adventure. We developed enduring friendships with like-minded people. We learnt, and continue to learn, so much.”

This lucky family saw the vulnerable Richmond Birdwing butterfly repopulate their restored backyard habitat.

Smaller properties also play a key role in preserving nature on the Gold Coast. Several Land For Wildlife registered properties, once bare paddocks, now provide nature corridors for animals travelling between Lamington National Park and Springbrook National Park.

On an urban scale, as Helen’s house demonstrates, your backyard can be valuable habitat – or a stopover point – for wildlife in rapidly developing areas.

Looking Ahead

The Gold Coast’s population is expected to more than double in the next 30 years, according to the Gold Coast Bulletin. Thousands of green spaces are planned for our wellbeing; yet, our relationship with nature could be much richer than just seeing green! We need to be aware of what we want to save – of what we value.

Here begins an encyclopaedic series of posts about Australian wildlife, so you can find their gems in your backyard.

I hope anyone, anywhere enjoys these online Aussie animal encounters. Go ahead and comment with your own wildlife stories!

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