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Nature, culture and history
Wild Cattle Island National Park is a set of two low sand and saline clay islands made up of beach ridges and intertidal areas. A vegetated sand spit at the northern end of the eastern island merges into a 9km beach, bordering the entire length of the park. A mosaic of intertidal mangrove, samphire and salt flats separate the two islands and flow into Wild Cattle Creek and Colosseum Inlet at the western and southern boundaries of the park. Coastal she-oaks Casuarina equisetifolia, spinifex Spinifex hirsutus grasslands and beach morning glory Ipomoea pes-caprae along the foreshore merge into vine forest and a dry woodland community dominated by Moreton Bay ash Corymbia tessellaris, Forest red gum Eucalyptus tereticornis and swamp tea-tree Melaleuca dealbata. The vine forest, also known as microphyll vine scrub or ‘beach scrub’, is of particular importance. This type of forest provides critical habitat for island animals and helps to stabilise the dynamic dune systems. It is under threat in eastern Australia from increased clearing, pest plant infestations and unsustainable land uses.
The park is in the Colosseum Inlet – Rodds Bay Directory of Important Wetlands of Australia and is recognised as a nationally important area for shorebirds. The park is important habitat for the sharp-tailed sandpiper Calidris acuminata, curlew sandpiper Calidris ferruginea and other migratory bird species roosting in the island vegetation and feeding on the shoreline. The beach and foreshore areas provide refuge for threatened migratory shorebirds such as grey-tailed tattler Tringa brevipes, eastern curlew Numenius madagascariensis, whimbrel Numenius phaeopus and bar-tailed godwit Limosa lapponica and for permanent residents such as vulnerable beach stone-curlews Esacus magnirostris and sooty oystercatchers Haematopus fuliginosus. The endangered loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta and vulnerable flatback Natator depressus and green Chelonia mydas turtles also use the beach and foreshore areas for nesting during the warmer months November to February.
A significant flying fox Terops sp roosting site is located at Wild Cattle Creek, just to the north of Colosseum Inlet. The vulnerable water mouse Xeromys myoides lives in the mangrove and estuarine areas of the park. The waters surrounding the islands are home to many fish species and are part of the GBRMPA Rodds Bay Dugong Protection Area and Colosseum Inlet Fish Habitat Area.
The traditional owners of this area are the Gooreng Gooreng and Gurang people. Evidence of their historical use of the park remains in the form of shell middens, scar tree sites, a quarry and a fish trap.