In its statutory Outlook Report 2019 the Australian Government’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) advised that the Reef’s summary outlook deteriorated from Poor in 2014 to Very Poor in 2019; that gradual sea temperature increase and extremes, such as marine heat waves, are the most immediate threats posing the highest risk and the challenge to restore Reef resilience requires mitigation of climate change.
Under the 1972 World Heritage Convention, the Committee can inscribe a World Heritage property onto the List of World Heritage in Danger if there is evidence that the property is faced with threatening impacts, of amongst other things, climatic factors. The recent proposal to do just that was consistent with the very purpose for which the process was designed – to inform the international community of conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed onto the World Heritage List and to encourage corrective action.
In the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, the population density of feral-pigs is estimated at just over three per square kilometre. Feral-pigs systematically destroy juvenile Fan Palms, which have obviously become an invaluable carbohydrate component of their staple dietary requirements. As a human inhabitant daily confronting this infanticide, I am led to the unavoidable conclusion of eventual species extinction; which begs the question: Can this World Heritage rainforest stand up to the barrage of future cyclones without its linchpin of structural integrity? Feral boars dislodge nesting cassowaries and devour full-clutches of eggs and the environmental indelicacy of pig-hunting inevitably follows. Purpose-bred pig-dogs are released into rainforest to hunt down and immobilise wild-pigs, with collateral cassowary fatalities occurring as an inevitable consequence. Now we are learning that the relentless dredging of feral-pigs releases emissions of 4.9 million metric tonnes (MMT) CO2 per year (equivalent to 1.1 million passenger vehicles).
If the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area was threatened with inscription onto the List of World Heritage in Danger because of climatic concerns, I wonder if Australia’s political response would be as affronted as that of the Great Barrier Reef? In terms of threatened species, the former is far more irreplaceable than the latter, but in terms of global recognition and associated regard, the latter is arguably treasured to a greater extent than any other worldly natural property and perhaps it is this unrivalled recognition and concern that motivated the World Heritage Committee to propose the In Danger Listing to elicit the strongest possible global call-to-action.
Daintree Rainforest Foundation Ltd and its Daintree Rainforest Fund have been registered by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and successfully entered onto the Register of Environmental Organisations. Donations made to the public fund are eligible for a tax deduction under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.