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Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) Image: © Queensland Museum.

Corundum from which Sapphires are extracted. Image: Orbital Joe, Creative Commons.

Brolga (Grus rubicunda) Image: © Queensland Museum.

Barrier Reef Anemonefish (Amphiprion akindynos) Image: Ian Banks. (

Cooktown Orchid (Dendrobium phalaenopsis) Image: © Environmental Protection Agency.

Unless marked otherwise, all Images are under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence: Attribution, noncommercial use, no derivative works. THIS BOOKLET COMPLEMENTS THE QUEENSLAND EMBLEMS: FLORA AND FAUNA KIT WHICH CAN BE BORROWED FROM QUEENSLAND MUSEUM LOANS. Ph (07) 3406 8344

KOALA (Phascolarctos cinereus)

Koala habitats extend from the temperate south to the tropical north, in a fragmented range across eastern Australia. Koalas have a close association with eucalypt forests as they feed almost exclusively on the foliage of species of this genus. Koalas are nocturnal and spend most of the day resting in a low fork of a tree, usually climbing into the canopy around dusk to commence feeding. At night they may change trees and this usually involves descending to the ground where they are vulnerable to dogs and traffic. Additional factors affecting koala populations are diseases of the eye and reproductive tract caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia psittaci. Koalas are also slow breeders, only producing one baby per year. However, the greatest threat to current koala populations by far, is the loss of habitat. Several times in Australia's past, koala culling was permitted by the government, during `open seasons', to meet the international demand for fur. Koala fur was renowned for its ability to withstand any amount of hard usage and was waterproof, making it ideal for the interior lining of greatcoats. The 1927 open season produced more controversy than ever before because by then, the koala was near extinction in some areas. The 1927 season, known as the `slaughter of the innocents', is still a source of shame for many Queenslanders. A campaign led by The Courier and titled "Spare the Bear" united Queensland's scientific, professional and amateur groups in support of saving the koala `bear' and preventing the open season. Despite this, the season went ahead. Leading in to the depression of 1929, Queenslanders, short of money, were encouraged to hunt koalas for their pelts which were exported to America. It was the American public who were alarmed by this practice and soon refused to buy any more of our koala pelts. The public outcry produced by the great massacre of 1927 was a significant point in the development of Australia's first-wave of environmentalism. Education, the Press, and the scientific community were organised for the first time, to protect our native fauna. Concern about the koala's possible extinction led to its total protection in the late 1920s. We owe the survival of the state's faunal emblem, to a combination of strict protection and the goodwill and patience of those who have rehabilitated depleted populations.

A truckload of koala skins in the Clermont district, ca 1927. It holds 3600 koala skins, obtained by hunters in a 30 day period.

Used with permission from the State Library of Qld. Image No. 18937

BROLGA (Grus rubicunda)

In Aboriginal legend, the Brolga was once a famous dancer, Buralga. She spurned the attentions of an evil magician and with a whirlwind cloud of dust, was changed into a graceful crane. Standing 1.4 metres tall, the Brolga is one of Australia's largest flying birds with a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres. The elegant bowing and bobbing dances of the Brolgas are interspersed with periods when they stop and throw back their heads, and trumpet loudly. Sometimes they leap into the air, a metre or so high, and parachute back to ground level on their broad black and grey wings. These dances also occur outside the breeding season, so are not solely a part of courtship displays. The dance may help strengthen and maintain pair bonds as Brolgas mate for life. Brolgas live in coastal tropical wetlands dominated by sedges. They nest in these areas during the months of higher rainfall and their food sources include large insects and their larvae, molluscs, crustaceans, spiders, frogs, small rodents, sedge tubers and sometimes fish. In the drier months, the birds congregate around the rapidly evaporating wetlands and flocks of up to 12 000 birds have been seen at these times. Brolgas have been found around the many dams built in northern Australia over the last fifty years or more. They breed on or beside moist areas in single, unlined grass or sedge nests that are approximately 1.5 metres in diameter. The breeding season occurs during the tropical wet season from October to April. Brolga populations are threatened due to the decreasing extent of wetland habitats. Other factors that are affecting Brolgas are the natural water flows into wetland areas; grazing and stock watering points in and around wetlands; pollution; herbicide, pesticide and chemical run-off into wetlands; foxes, pigs, feral dogs and cats; the isolation of wetland areas; and decreasing wildlife corridors.

Brolga (Grus rubicunda) Image: © Queensland Museum.

ANEMONEFISH- Barrier Reef (Amphiprion akindynos)

Anemonefish, also commonly called clownfish, are a brightly coloured group. The Barrier Reef Anemonefish is brown with two black-edged white bars. The species name akindynos comes from the Greek word that means `safe or without danger'. This is because the fish lives safely tucked among the tentacles of its host. Anemonefish and anemones live in a mutualistic relationship i.e. both benefit from living together. By sheltering amongst the anemone's tentacles, the Anemonefish are protected from predators. In return, they chase away any would-be predators of the anemone. Anemonefish are found in shallow coral lagoons where they may form quite large fields. Some develop into colonies that dwell in deep crevices of both living and dead coral, into which they hide when disturbed. The Great Barrier Reef Anemonefish is commonly found among the anemones of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) which is listed as a World Heritage Area. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Act of 1975 provides legislation that protects the reef by prohibiting mining and mineral exploration. The GBRMP Aquaculture Regulations Act of 2000 regulates the discharge of waste from aquaculture operations that may affect the plants and animals of the GBRMP. There are many threats to the health and biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef. These include such factors as: boating and shipping; coastal development; declining water quality; overfishing; aquaculture; hunting and collecting; tourism and recreation; and global warming. One of the effects of global warming is an increase in sea temperatures. Increased temperatures affect the zooxanthellae algae that live in a mutualistic association with coral. If the algae cannot photosynthesise, there is a build up of products that poison the zooxanthellae. To save itself the coral spits out the zooxanthellae and some of its own tissue, in a process called tissue sloughing. This leaves the coral a bleached white. Without the zooxanthellae, the coral slowly starves to death as it no longer has the sugars that the algae made during photosynthesis. Once the coral die, fish and other marine species are soon affected. Coral bleaching is a concern and one that impacts on our tourism industry. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) through its Bleach Watch program constantly monitors the health of our Great Barrier Reef coral community.

Barrier Reef Anemonefish (Amphiprion akindynos) Image: Ian Banks. (


The `Gemfields', located in central-western Queensland, is the largest sapphire field of its type in the world and several small towns, such as Anakie, Rubyvale, Sapphire and the Willows, are located here. There are only two major fields of commercial significance in Australia and one of these is the Anakie field, 43 km west of Emerald in Queensland. The Anakie field is large and encompasses other areas such as Sapphire (Big Bessie, Graves Hill, Millionaires Hill, Mount Clifford, Subera, Rice Bowl, New Rush, Blue Bird), Rubyvale, Reward, Tomahawk Creek, Glenalva, and Willows. The "Subera" mine to the east of Sapphire is probably the largest sapphire mine in the world. Production from this mine has been significant and in 1999/2000, nearly 2 000kg of corundum was produced. The sapphires found in the Gemfields area are noted for their range in colour. They may be dark to light blue, blue-green, green, yellow, golden yellow, pink, ruby, mauve, purple, and a parti colour, which is a combination of blue, green and yellow all in the one stone. On the Anakie field, sapphires have been discovered in volcanic rocks formed from basaltic lavas that flowed during the Tertiary period, 65- 2 million years ago. During the initial volcanic activity some 70 ­ 40 million years ago, abundant sapphires, spinels, garnets and zircons were blasted from these volcanoes as crystals that fell in volcanic ash. Weathering and erosion of these volcanic rocks released sapphires that were transported by old steams and concentrated in layers of gravel, known as `wash.' These alluvial deposits date back to the Pliocene and Pleistocene period, 2 million to 10 000 years ago. In Queensland, the first discovery of sapphires was near Retreat Creek. In 1875, a railway worker discovered red zircons which he thought were rubies, and that is how Rubyvale got its name. Commercial mining and production of sapphires didn't occur until the early 1880s. By 1903, mining was well-established in the townships of Sapphire and Rubyvale. Tourism is an important industry in the Gemfields region today and many travellers journey there to experience an outback adventure and try their luck at fossicking for sapphires. The Big Sapphire is a tourist attraction built at Anakie, 43km west of Emerald.

Children fossicking for sapphires in a creek bed after floods at Anakie, ca 1896. Used with permission from the State Library of Qld. Image No. 33600

COOKTOWN ORCHID (Dendrobium phalaenopsis)

On the 19th November, 1959, the Cooktown Orchid was declared the floral emblem of Queensland. It naturally occurs in northern Queensland, from the Johnston River near Innisfail south of Cairns, to Iron Range. However, its main distribution is believed to be restricted to the coastal ranges between Mount Malloy west of Mossman and the Archer River in the Cape York Peninsula. Although found in tropical areas, it is not a rainforest species. It is found mainly in woodland areas and attached to tree trunks of Melaleuca paperbarks. They are also found in coastal scrub and monsoon thickets. Cooktown orchids are epiphytes. That is, they are plants that grow on other plants for support or to reach sunlight. Cooktown orchids usually flower in the dry season in the wild but in cultivation they may flower all year long. Woodlands in this area vary greatly in composition. In far north Queensland, the most common trees are bloodwoods (mostly Corymbia novoguinensis and C. intermedia) with regular stands of Darwin stringy barks (Eucalyptus tetrodonta). Habitat alteration is having an effect on the distribution of the Cooktown Orchid but the greatest threat to rare, attractive species is plant collecting. This has resulted in the species becoming rare to extinct in some areas. The Nature Conservation Act of 1992 and the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation Act of 1994, closely regulate the harvesting and sale of native plants. Some of the recommended recovery actions to conserve existing numbers are to: maintain a proper fire management system; protect habitats on both private and state land; improve the management of legal collections and prevent over-harvesting; minimise illegal collection; reduce broad scale vegetation clearing; maintain weed control; and prevent the introduction of foreign or exotic species. The Cooktown orchid is one of our most beautiful orchid species and has been exported all over the world, especially to countries such as England, New Zealand, USA, Papua New Guinea and Fiji. In 1968, the Cooktown orchid was depicted on our 25c stamp for the state floral emblem set and in 1998 it again appeared on our $1.20 stamp.

Cooktown Orchid. Image: © Environmental Protection Agency.


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