Piper Islands National Park (CYPAL) Tropical North Queensland

Photo credit: Adam Creed © Queensland Government

Nature, culture and history

    Natural environment

    The islands of Piper Islands National Park (CYPAL) are low, vegetated cays located on platform reefs. They are mainly an accumulation of coral sand and shingle ridges. The islands support a mix of grasses, herbs, mangroves and low shrubs, providing important habitat for over 75 species of birds.

    Beesley and Baird islands are both found on the western reef. Farmer and Fisher islands share the eastern reef and Kay Islet sits alone north-east of the other islands.

    Due to the isolation and difficulty of access, Piper Islands National Park (CYPAL) is relatively unaffected by pest plant and animal species and is home to an amazing variety and number of birds. Seabirds, shorebirds and forest birds all use the islands for foraging, roosting or breeding. These include terns, eastern reef egrets, pied imperial-pigeons, forest kingfishers, beach stone-curlews and pied oystercatchers.

    The park supports one of the largest breeding and roosting populations of the black noddy Anous minutus in Queensland. Thousands of these birds breed on Beesley, Baird and Farmer islands and are present for most of the year. Black noddies usually nest in Pisonia grandis but on Farmer Island nest in mangroves as well, presumably due to a lack of preferred trees. They are not migratory and do not usually stray far from their nesting sites. Black noddies can be seen skimming the surface of the water around the islands, snatching food to feed to their young.

    Terns, herons and gulls use Kay Islet for breeding, including one record of approximately 800 crested terns Thalasseus bergii. The endangered little tern Sternula albifrons is also known to breed on the islet. Roseate terns Sterna dougallii breed on Fisher Island. These birds are highly sensitive to human disturbance and their presence is a good indicator of the undisturbed nature of the park.

    Piper Islands National Park (CYPAL) is an important nesting area for the vulnerable hawksbill turtle. These turtles use their distinctive parrot-like beak to pick sponges out of cracks and crevices in the coral reef. They also feed on seagrass, algae, soft corals and shellfish. Green turtles, which are also classified as vulnerable, inhabit the waters around the park.

    Culture and history

    Traditional Owner culture

    The Kuuku Ya’u people are the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of Piper Islands National Park (CYPAL). The islands in this park are of great cultural significance to the Kuuku Ya’u people.

    In 2009, the Federal Court determined that the Kuuku Ya’u people are the native title holders of these islands. This determination formally recognised the native title rights of the Kuuku Ya’u people to use and maintain these islands under their traditional laws and customs and protect those places and areas from harm. At this time, the Northern Kuuku Ya’u Kanthanampu Aboriginal Corporation was established as the registered native title body corporate (RNTBC) for the area described in this determination.

    In 2011, the park was transferred as Aboriginal freehold land to the Northern Kuuku Ya’u Kanthanampu Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC Land Trust. The Piper Islands National Park (CYPAL) was then dedicated over the land.

    The Land Trust manages the park jointly with the Queensland Government in accordance with an Indigenous Management Agreement.

    Cultural awareness and protocol videos

    As part of the ongoing commitments to strengthen relationships with Traditional Owners in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, the Queensland Government, in partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, is developing cultural awareness and protocol videos about the principles of visiting and working respectfully on Country.

    These videos highlight the intrinsic connection that Traditional Owners have to their Country while also providing them with an opportunity to share their stories, personal insights, experiences and cultural guidance for working on Country.

    • There are currently no park alerts for this park.