The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (the Area) is one of the most remarkable places on earth. Spread along 450km of rugged Tropical North Queensland coastline between Cooktown and Townsville, the Area is home to ancient remnants of the Gondwanan forest that once covered the Australian continent.
In 1988 Australian and international experts assessed the Wet Tropics, within the Wet Tropics bioregion, as being of Outstanding Universal Value, meeting all four natural heritage criteria for World Heritage listing as it:
- represents a major stage of the earth's evolutionary history
- is an outstanding example of ongoing ecological and biological processes
- contains superlative natural phenomena
- contains the most important natural habitats for conservation of biological diversity.
While mostly rainforest, this stunning landscape features diverse habitats including open forests, woodlands, wetlands and mangroves.
It is listed as the second most irreplaceable natural World Heritage site on earth by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Wet Tropics has provided a safe haven for the evolution of species over millions of years and is a refuge for ancient songbirds, from which two-thirds of the world’s birdlife today are descendants. It is also home to the musky rat-kangaroo, the oldest surviving member of the kangaroo and wallaby family.
We are still discovering new species within the World Heritage Area, which supports the highest level of biodiversity of any region in Australia. At last count, more than 3,300 species of plants and more than 700 species of vertebrate animals call the Wet Tropics home. This includes more than 700 species of endemic plants and at least 88 species of vertebrate animals found nowhere else on earth.
Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples are the Traditional Custodians of the Wet Tropics and surrounding areas and have been living in and caring for its diverse habitats for thousands of years. They have unique cultural responsibilities, rights and interests in this rich cultural landscape. Rainforest Aboriginal Peoples of the Wet Tropics are extraordinarily diverse and represent at least 20 tribal groups, 120 clans and eight language groups—currently more than 20,000 people hold ongoing traditional connections to land in the Area.
In 2012, Australia’s National Heritage List recognised the Area for its Aboriginal cultural values, including the distinctiveness of Rainforest Aboriginal traditions, their land management techniques and the technical innovation and expertise needed to process food, in particular toxic plants.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is one of several agencies involved in managing and protecting the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, with the Wet Tropics Management Authority responsible for overall planning to ensure this superb part of Queensland is protected for the world, guided by the best available science.