Make your way to Yourka and you'll pass through one of the most diverse landscapes on the continent. Behind the rainforest of the eastern side of the great divide, the rain shadow brings the vegetation back to moist eucalypt forest and then woodlands. Tall white gums line the rivers that run west, in this area feeding the Herbert River and its huge flanking trees.
Yourka extends the reserved country across this span, starting in the wet tropics bioregion and into the Einasleigh Uplands. It also spans a variety of geology that forms the range, resulting in a great variety of ecosystems from tall forests to woodlands and low shrubby woodlands.
Its rich animal life includes two threatened species, the red goshawk and the Mareeba rock-wallaby, alongside over 140 bird, 17 other native mammal and nearly 300 plant species.
All this has been protected thanks to the generosity of our supporters.
What this reserve protects
Rock wallabies. Photo: Wayne Zawler/Ecopix
Red goshawk. Photo: Lindsay Cupper
Yourka is a sanctuary for a wide range of species, including a population of rock-wallabies. There are localised areas of granite outcrop with steep faces and occasional overhangs which they use as a refuge. The main one is Tiger mountain in the south-east.
Yourka also protects these significant species and communities:
- Red goshawk (nationally vulnerable)
- Masked owl (northern) (nationally vulnerable)
- Square-tailed kite
- Greater glider
- Long-nosed bandicoot
- Brush-tailed possum
- Trigger plants
- Dodonaea uncinata (a rare hopbush)
- Range bloodwood
- Boronia occidentalis (a rare boronia)
- Green truffle orchid
- Moist eucalypt woodland
- Heathy woodland
- Gum-topped box woodland
- Tall riparian forests
- Bloodwood–ironbark woodland
- Poplar gum woodland
What we’re doing on the property
Bush Heritage staff members Jim Radford and Clair Dougherty surveying plants at Yourka Reserve. Photo: Jen Grindrod
The property's history as pastoral land didn't involve any large scale clearing, which happened nearby. With the soils and large old trees still intact, it was quick to return to essentially intact bush land.
Almost. Through disturbance by stock and vehicles a number of significant weeds have become established. Our first priority after buying the reserve was to remove domestic cattle, and we're now tackling weeds such as siam weed, grade grass and lantana.
Fire also plays an important role in regenerating tree and shrub species and stimulating fresh grass growth in the grassy woodlands. This benefits bird and mammal species. Fire management is particularly important for the control of siam and reducing the lantana that hides and restricts access for weed control.
Feral pigs, which damage sensitive wetlands and may compete with native species for food, are another major threat that must be actively managed.
Like all large reserves, there's work involved in managing hundreds of kilometres of roads and fences that were in poor condition at the time of purchase. A couple of intensive cyclones haven't helped - Yasi went right over Yourka!
With help from local naturalists, volunteers and National Parks staff, our ecologists and reserve managers continue to do biological inventory surveys, recent targeted surveys were conducted for rock-wallabies and quoll. Volunteers have made a major contribution to the reserve inventory effort.
Home for rare raptors
One of the continent's most distinctive raptors is also one of the rarest and most elusive.
Distinctive because it's one of only three species thought to have been here as long as the marsupials and eucalypts - right back to Gondwana. It's the largest goshawk, the rarest (with perhaps with only 700 pairs left in the wild) and very elusive (with its vast home range, quiet nature and habit of changing its nesting area).
Listed as vulnerable to complete extinction, and endangered in Queensland, it's the icon species of the most valued habitats on Yourka - the fertile riparian and alluvial forests. Typically those most targeted for clearing.
The bird itself was recently seen for the first time on Yourka, sitting in the huge white gums near the Herbert River.
Square-tailed kites have recently also been recorded on Yourka. Not so rare, but still as uniquely Australian as the red goshawk it has been spotted in the huge trees flanking the Herbert River. Such sparsely distributed species need large reserves of habitat, which, thanks to our supporters, Yourka provides.
Yourka Reserve has sites that are culturally significant to both the Jirrbal and Warangnu people. We're currently planning a full assessment of the cultural values on the property.