Collecting data from the Camera Traps – April 2020, was as informative as it was therapeutic. Getting back into the jungle, after weeks of post-operative convalescence and collecting from twelve widely-dispersed camera traps, is not a trivial undertaking. Truth be told, my wife Angie did the majority of the hard yards, but April turned out to be a month of technical failings. Three of the traps provided no data whatsoever. One had a dysfunctional data-card. Another had a dead camera and a third, alas, the victim of human error. The last of these three had been consistently the strongest contributor to the monthly tally. This month is comparatively low, as a consequence. Overall, there were only 16 cassowary sightings (about 20% of the monthly average to date), 66 pigs (about 35% of the monthly average) and 23 dingoes (170% of the monthly average).
Cassowaries are courting at the moment and Angie was obstructed twice in her travels, by the same pair preparing to mate, in different sections of rainforest at different times. Meanwhile, as I was out tending to the relocation of a trap that had been consistently poor in its contributory performance, a couple of hunting dingoes trotted very close to me. I clucked with my tongue, without effect and then emitted a kissing sound, which brought them to an immediate halt, as they looked upon a long-absent human inhabitant and then bolted for their lives. It has only been a month since my knee-operation, but the forest has changed. Here, a fallen bough has brought wait-a-while across a section of trail, whilst there, an aggressive growth of supplejack vine obstructed progress where it was previously open. With every impediment, a new familiarity is forged and the rainforest reminds that it is a force to be reckoned with.
My close encounter with the hunting dingoes and their rainforest representativeness generally, contrasts with perceptions that dense rainforest is rarely used, despite large tracts being available. Certainly, there is abundant prey with the proliferation of feral pigs and we know, from bitter experience, that dingoes also take juvenile cassowaries. Perhaps, when pre-extirpated Kuku Yalanji inhabitants were managing their rainforest habitat, dingo populations may have been lower. It is very likely that a partnership between humans and dingoes was cultivated for mutual benefit, but to this formidable alliance, the residue of unaligned dingoes would have been competition.