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save the daintree 1

the most extraordinary place on earth.

our vision is that the evolutionary processes that began in the Daintree 120 million years ago continue undisrupted.

David attenborough

our mission

All images by Steven Nowakowski unless otherwise attributed. Pictured: Zamia Fern (Bowenia Spectabilis)

is to rewild the Daintree lowlands to a pristine ecological system managed by its rightful owners the Eastern Kuku Yalanji and to protect Eastern Kuku Yalanji culture. 1

welcome to the daintree madja (rainforest) Traditional Land of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Bama The Daintree Madja (Rainforest) is an iconic international conservation treasure. People associate the Daintree with tropical wilderness, yet few know that two-thirds of the Daintree Lowland Madja (Rainforest) – the land between the Daintree River and Cape Tribulation – was subdivided for rural residential development opening up the Daintree to clearing and devastation.



“Within the region, the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation coast has a special status. It is the last surviving, essentially intact, tropical lowland madja (rainforest) in Australia. It has one of the highest diversity of plant families anywhere in the world. Its rarity, fame and superlative beauty make it one of the foundations of the region’s economy. It is the only place in the world where two World Heritage Areas meet.” THE INTERNATIONAL UNION FOR THE CONSERVATION OF NATURE

The Daintree Blockade by protestors in 1983-84 was an attempt to prevent a road being built north of Cape Tribulation. While it ultimately failed it did bring national and international attention to the Daintree madja (rainforest) and in 1988 the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and an expanded Daintree National Park was declared. This also created a perception that the Daintree was protected forevermore. While all this was going on developers also had their eye on the Daintree lowlands. In the mid 1980s the Queensland Government approved a subdivision carving our 1136 freehold properties. The development that followed fragmented the madja (rainforest) with 50km of roads. Over time, the construction of hundreds of houses followed. A tourism boom in the 1990s resulted in commercial interests adding poorly planned and unsustainable development. Calls for further development have occurred ever since.

In response, conservationists have staged an epic and sustained struggle to prevent further development which continues today. Because the subdivision created privately owned properties, the only option to resolve this issue has been the purchase of this land to include it into the Daintree National Park for conservation and protection of Daintree National Park. Great progress has been made and since 1992 a total of 524 properties have been saved. We continue to purchase and protect madja (rainforest) land in this way and doing so has allowed for the closure and restoration of roads as they become obsolete. At the same time madja (rainforest) land continues to be purchased and developed for housing. We are in race against time and today 207 properties are available for purchase, many of which have development potential. Population growth, changes to the economy, and the arrival of mains electricity which could see the risk of development increase. We’ve proven we can stop development in the Daintree. We can even turn back the clock, but we need to act now, before any further development occurs. With my team of ecologists I have produced a plan to purchase the 207 at-risk madja (rainforest) properties and protect them forever. Now I need your help to save our most precious and irreplaceable ecosystem in Australia.


Please join me URGENTLY to Save the Daintree madja (Rainforest) Kelvin Davies


oldest tropical rainforest in the world

kuku yalanji One of the oldest living cultures in the world, have been maintaining culture, kuku (language), customary lore, and caring for Country from the beginning

120 million years old

greatest diversity of plants and animals found in Australia

 Living examples of the four major stages in the evolution of plants over

400 million years


The greater Daintree madja (rainforest) has continuously existed for more than 120 million years and is crammed full of ancient flora. These plants provide a unique insight into the evolutionary journey of flowering plants. But the Daintree’s values extend beyond its floral diversity.






of Australia’s frogs

in one hectare of Daintree Rainforest than in all of the UK

annual visitors




of Australia’s bat and butterfly species

rare and threatened

annual tourism economy



For every

of Australia’s mammals

endemic fern species

Home to


$1 SPENT on Wet Tropics management,

13 mammals


found nowhere else in the world

of Australia’s 41 mangrove species

12,000 species


species of insects

of the world’s primitive flowering plant families

$85 RETURN on investment from tourism

44 species that are rare and threatened 7

Australia’s last extensive stand of lowland madja (rainforest) is found here.

The Daintree story The Daintree is fringed by long sandy beaches, rocky headlands and steep mountain ranges intersected by pristine creeks and rivers. Impenetrable ranges, rising steeply from the coast, are blanketed with dense upland madja (rainforests) supporting many ancient plants and animals. This unique landscape is the Traditional Country of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people.


A living museum The Daintree Lowland madja (rainforest) is the oldest tropical rainforests on Earth, having continuously existed for 120 million years. The Daintree and surrounding areas are crammed full of ancient flora that provide an insight into the evolutionary journey of flowering plants. This region is home to more than 3000 plant species with new species still being discovered. Inside this living museum of plant evolution you can find 13 of the world’s 19 primitive flowering plant families as well as the most primitive pines, cycads, ferns and mosses. These ancient plants have lineages to some of the earliest plants found on land. As you walk through the Daintree the major stages of evolution are represented. Many plants found here have changed little from those which inhabited the forests of Gondwana. You can see ferns (420-325 million years), conifers and cycads from the Jurassic period (208-144 million years ago), and flowering plants which evolved around 125 million years ago. Conserving the Daintree also preserves the major stages of Earth’s evolutionary history. This is one of the only places on Earth where these stages of plant evolution are found together. The Daintree Lowland madja (rainforest) is not only important as a relic but it also continues to be a centre of ongoing speciation and evolution. Critical processes of adaptation and evolution still occur and new species continue to be discovered here. 9

Eastern Kuku Yalanji1 – Original Custodians The Eastern Kuku Yalanji Bama (aboriginal person) are the Traditional Owners of the Daintree Lowland madja (rainforest). Their Country spans the catchments of the Annan River in the North (South of Cooktown) running west to the great dividing range, spreading out towards Lakeland downs and to the Mowbray River, South of Port Douglas (from Yule Point). Bama (Kuku Yalanji people) are actively caring for Bubu (Country) and managing part of their Traditional lands including three Indigenous Protected Areas which incorporate a 53,000ha Nature Refuge. As part of the Rainforest 4 Foundation land acquisition process Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation is managing the transfer of properties purchased by Rainforest 4 Foundation to the Daintree National Park. Some of the properties we have purchased have become cultural meeting sites for Indigenous people.

European settlement and logging In the 1880s, farming expanded along the coastal belt and extensive areas of lowland madja (rainforest) were cleared. Settlements were established throughout the area and the resident population began to grow. Following World War II the timber industry regained momentum. Extensive tracts of virgin hardwood forests were logged and by 1955, the Cape Tribulation road was being extended north to allow recovery of felled timber. In 1883, the Daintree Village south of the Daintree River was established as a base for the red cedar logging industry and 50 years later a road was built from Mossman heading north. In the 1960s a road was opened from the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation with a steel punt used as a ferry for carting timber trucks across the Daintree River.

1 The Daintree lowland madja is an important Cultural Landscape comprising of the Bubu (Traditional Land), Jalun (sea), balkaway (stories), manjal (mountain), wuburr (hills), madja (rainforest), yirri (running water), kija (moon), jiri (sky) yilki (creeks), animals, plants, wawubaja (rivers) and yalmba (beach, coast).


High conservation madja (rainforest) faces ongoing threats of clearing for residential development

Residential subdivision and Bama displacement In 1982, 7644.3ha of high conservation value forests were subdivided into 1136 blocks for rural residential development with advertisements appearing as far afield as the Wall Street Journal and people from all over the world buying up a piece of ancient madja (rainforest).

World heritage recognition In 1988, nearly 900,000ha of madja (rainforests) in North Queensland were declared as the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and by the 1990s there was widespread recognition that development in the Daintree was inappropriate and needed to be capped.

Buy back schemes Forest protectors responded quickly to the subdivision of this important landscape. The 1980s saw a lengthy campaign unfold with activists climbing trees, chaining themselves to machinery and burying themselves in the path of bulldozers that were on a mission to clear madja (rainforest) for a new road.

In the 1990s and early 2000s several rescue programs unfolded resulting in properties either being bought back, having development rights removed or land owners compensated for lost development rights. For 25 years, community conservation groups have also managed their own buyback schemes, purchasing priority blocks for their conservation values. 252 hectares has been protected by non-profit organisations working in this space. An additional 365 hectares of land has been protected as Nature Refuges through Voluntary Conservation Agreements.

Ongoing threats Despite these efforts, there are proposals still being tabled for development of this precious ecosystem. 7644.3 hectares of Daintree Lowland madja (rainforest) is freehold land outside the National Park and World Heritage Area.


Idiospermum Australiense, commonly known as the Idiot Fruit, is one of the world’s rarest and most primitive flowering plants. Its discovery in 1970 in the Daintree was arguably Australia’s most significant botanical find.

THIS DEVELOPMENT HAS AN IMMENSE IMPACT ON THE SURROUNDING LANDSCAPE: Vegetation clearing directly removes rare and threatened plant species. Impacts to Eastern Yalanjiwarra Cultural Values. Endangered and rare animals such as Bennett’s Tree-Kangaroo and the Southern Cassowary are displaced and lose habitat connectivity. Canopy opening occurs due to road building and clearing of vegetation for domestic dwellings. Habitat fragmentation opens the canopy, changing humidity regime, increasing light penetration, decimating climax vegetation and introducing weed species. Many residential subdivision blocks are located on steep sites which leads to a high risk of erosion and slippage. Domestic dogs are present which attack and displace native animals. An increase in recreational pig hunting with dogs has resulted in Cassowary kills. An increase in year-round traffic has resulted in wildlife incidences. Road fatalities are the single greatest cause of Cassowary deaths. Development has lead to an increase in surface water extraction and pollution. There is increased pressure for services such as electricity, mobile phone reception and sealed roads. There has been a proposal to build a bridge across the Daintree River. An increase in these services has the potential to increase the region’s land value which would drive further development and make conservation land purchases unviable. Inappropriate land use in the Daintree continues. This includes cattle grazing, low-grade tea production, oil palm plantations and recreational infrastructure such as dirt bike tracks.

Rural residential development is the single most significant and preventable threatening process in the Daintree. Buying these blocks back is the most effective way to prevent further development and conserve what is left of the unique Daintree Lowland Madja (Rainforest) ecosystem. Rainforest4Foundation


How buyback works We know that buyback works. Our track record in the Daintree shows this. Where properties are purchased, this land is protected for conservation and traditional ownership and residential clearing is prohibited. These outcomes are significant and are protecting high conservation value madja (rainforest). Residential development is the single most significant and preventable threatening process in the Daintree. Buying these blocks back is the most effective way to prevent further development and conserve what is left of this ancient, living museum.

Our strategy is simple and logical and we know it works. In the past 12 months we’ve raised $400,000 to purchase seven blocks, totalling 11.33ha .

Acquisition strategy

Kuku Yalanji Ownership

We work with an ecological scientist to anaylse all of the freehold properties in the Daintree to prioritise the blocks we purchase.

We transfer ownership of the property to Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation for them to place them into the national park as Aboriginal freehold.

Working with Kuku Yalanji

Road closures and revegetation

We have a genuine partnership with local Traditional Owners, supporting them to realise their own aspirations to work on Country and add land to the National Park.

Once we purchase adjacent properties in a cul-de-sac, we close the road and revegetate the area, ensuring its return to madja (rainforest) habitat.

Purchasing the properties We partner with philanthropists, other conservation groups and our own donor network to raise funds to purchase each property.


Revegetating a closed road


Change is never easy, and it often creates discord, but when people come together for the good of humanity and the Earth, we can accomplish great things. David Suzuki Rainforest4Foundation


Custodianship from the very beginning – Eastern Yalanjiwarra From the beginning, Eastern Yalanjiwarra lived on and cared for their Bubu based on their ngjakura (lore, dreaming). A rich array of plants and animals provided reliable mayi (food) for Bama (Kuku Yalanji people) as they travelled seasonally throughout the area. Since the waybul (white person) arrived, there have been many changes for Bama and their Country but they have kept their connection to Country strong, maintained their culture and continued to care for their Bubu.




The European settlers came to Eastern Yalanjiwarra Country in the late nineteenth century in the pursuit of gold, tin, timber, cattle and sugar cane. From the turn of the twentieth century the Eastern Yalanjiwarra were subjected to the public policy of the time and were placed ‘under protection’. Traditional Owners were taken from their Country and placed in mission settlements. They were sent to the Mossman Gorge Community, a Dormitory in the lower Daintree River area and to the Bloomfield Community, now known as Wujal Wujal. Others were sent further afield to Yarrabah, Palm Island and Woorabinda in the South of the State. The government divided Yalanjiwarra Country into different tenures, all belonging to people other than them. Large areas of their Country was established as National Park and similar decisions were made about our Jalun (sea), which was mostly included in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Eastern Yalanjiwarra were not consulted in these decisions. They have watched many people move onto their Country and build bayans (houses). Few of them could afford to buy these blocks.

As part of their Native Title determination and ILUAs, Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation (JYAC) was established as the Registered Native Title Body Corporate (RNTBC) under the Native Title Act 1993 and Land Trust under the Queensland Aboriginal Land Act 1991. JYAC and its Ranger Program are actively caring for and managing their Bubu (Traditional Lands) including the three Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) on their Country which incorporate a 53,000 ha Nature Refuge.

Bama have unwavering aspirations to return to their Country. The main motivation for lodging their Native Title Claim, and entering into agreements over the use of lands has always been, and remains to this day to return to Country to live and work.

JYAC holds Native Title, land and Cultural Heritage rights and interest in trust on behalf of Eastern Yalanji Traditional Owners. As Trustees of our Traditional Estate, JYAC’s vision for the organisation is to be caring custodians of Bubu, Jalun and bana so Bama benefit culturally, economically, academically and socially and spiritually, while enhancing Eastern Yalanjiwarra Traditional Ngujakura and Cultural Values.

Bama have always known that they are the Traditional Owners of our Country, but to have that recognised in the Australian legal system, Eastern Yalanjiwarra made a Native Title Claim. The claim covered all Yalanji land between Mossman and Cooktown that wasn’t already freehold. The claim took many years, many meetings much negotiation and was settled on the 9th December 2007 when the Federal Court of Australia recognised our Native Title Rights and Interests over 126, 900 ha of our Bubu between Mossman and Cooktown in Far North Queensland (QC94/13).

“Traditional Owners have a kinship connection to this Country at a spiritual level,” Kupa said. “Mob believe land is connected to them and they’re connected to the land.”



Rainforest 4 and Jabalbina Yalanji Aborignal Corporation Partnership

Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation and Rainforest 4 Foundation have been working together for 3 years to establish a partnership that represents the Eastern Yalanji Traditional Owners of the Daintree lowland rainforest. Both organisations share the values of protecting the Daintree’s globally significant conservation and cultural values while also reconnecting people with Bubu (Traditional Land). Our two organisations have formed a unique partnership that sees us work collaboratively to identify properties with high cultural and conservation values. Rainforest 4 Foundation then activates its supporter base to raise funds to purchase the properties. Once the blocks are purchased, the title is transferred to Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation who works with Bama to determine the best course of action in terms of reconnecting their people with Country and allowing the land to heal. In time, Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation works with the Queensland state government to have the blocks added to the Daintree National Park estate and jointly managed as Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land (CYPAL).

Both organisations have sought out this partnership based on mutual values focussed on self-determination for Traditional Owners, protecting the cultural, biodiversity, and conservation values of the Daintree, and working collaboratively to understand issues and develop solutions.

“Healing the relationship between Indigenous and nonIndigenous people starts with addressing the central issue of land rights, and justice for a people who never ceded these rights. Through the building of meaningful personal relationships founded in culturally appropriate communication, there lies a path of reconciliation and healing.” KELVIN DAVIES – FOUNDER OF RAINFOREST 4 FOUNDATION



Joint Management: Cape York Peninsula Aboriginal Land (CYPAL) Rainforest4Foundation

Rainforest 4 Foundations partnership with Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation feeds into a much larger program of land ownership transfer. JYAC and the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people are currently negotiating with the State to enter into agreements to jointly manage the Daintree National Park through the Cape York Peninsula Tenure Resolution Program. Since commencing in 2008, the Cape York Peninsula Tenure Resolution Program has handed back almost 3.5 million hectares of land to an Aboriginal Corporations or Land Trusts and there are now 26 jointly managed National Parks on Cape York Peninsula.

The CYPAL program will result in Eastern Yalanjiwarra and Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation managing the Daintree, Ngalba Bulal, Hope Islands and Black Mountain National Parks in the future. Kupa Teao is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Jabalbina Yalanji and he says the benefits to Traditional Owners of this joint management process as well as Rainforest 4 Foundations ongoing buyback program are significant.

What the buyback partnership means to Jabalbina as an organisation is supporting Bama to get back on country, to allow them to be reconnected to country, and supporting the Traditional Owners and Elders to be part of that process.” KUPA TEAO – CEO JABALBINA YALANJI ABORIGINAL CORPORATION


Ant Plant

Cassowary Credit: Dean Jewel

Kaku Yalanji

Black Palm (Normanbya normanbyi)*


August 2019

January 2020

February 2020

March 2020

April 2020

June 2020

November 2020

December 2020

Diwan pronounced Dee-Wun (Scrub Turkey) Lot 107 Buchanan Creek Road, Cow Bay

Wabul pronounced Wah-bull (TSI Pigeon) Lot 3 Thornton Peak Drive, Forest Creek

Jarruku pronounced Jud-uh-gah (Scrub Hen) Lot 390 Maple Road, Cow Bay

Yindili pronounced Yin-dill-lee (Kingfisher) Lot 124 Quandong Road, Cow Bay

Wandi pronounced Won-dee (Sea Eagle) Lot 305 Cypress Road, Cow Bay

Kurranday pronounced TBC (Seagull) Lot 330 Cape Tribulation Road, Cow Bay

Kambi pronounced Gum-bee (Flying Fox) Lot 155 Cape Tribulation Road, Diwan

Kurranji pronounced Kuh-dun-jee (Cassowary) Lot 157 Cape Tribulation Road, Diwan

Habitat: Lowland tropical rainforest

Habitat: Lowland tropical rainforest, sclerophyll forest ecosystems 

Habitat: Lowland tropical rainforest, mesophyll vine forest

Habitat: Lowland tropical rainforest, mesophyll vine forest

Habitat: Lowland tropical rainforest and endangered Fan Palm ecosystem 

Habitat: Lowland tropical rainforest, mesophyll vine forest

Habitat: Lowland tropical rainforest with remnant vegetation of special value

Area: 1.43ha

Area: 1ha

Area: 1ha

Area: 1ha 

Habitat: Lowland tropical rainforest, simple–complex mesophyll to mesophyll vine forest

Area: 8.9ha

Area: 8.27ha

Cost: $75,000

Cost: $25,000

Cost: $25,000

Cost: $25,000

Cost: $200,000

Cost: $404,685









Connects to Daintree National park in multiple directions.

230 species of plants, 6 threatened.

Habitat for threatened species: Southern Cassowary, Noah’s Walnut and Climbing Pandanus.

Threatened species: Southern Cassowary, Bennett’s Tree-Kangaroo.

Threatened Species include Southern Cassowary, Ant Plant, Noah’s Walnut, Climbing Pandanus Thornton Aspen.

178 native plant species, ten listed as having “importance to conservation”.

Presence of primitive families of flowering plants such as Idiospermacae.

Threatened Species: Southern Cassowary, Bennett’s Tree-Kangaroo.

Threatened and vulnerable species: China Camp Laurel, Daintree Cleisanthus, Gray’s Walnut, Noah’s Walnut, Climbing Pandanus, near threatened ferns, and the near threatened Daintree Ryparosa.

This area contains remnant forest with intact assemblage of approximately 270 native species including numerous endangered, rare and vulnerable. This forest type is listed as “of concern” with special values such as being extremely restricted with uncommon plant species.

Area: 1ha  Cost: $25,000

Vital habitat for endangered Southern Cassowary and Bennett’s Tree-Kangaroo. Complex mesophyll vine forest on deep fertile soils, classified as endangered ecosystem.

The rare Thornton Aspen and rare and vulnerable Ant Plant (Myrmecodia beccarii).

207 native plant species.  

Habitat for Southern Cassowary and Bennett’s Tree-Kangaroo.

Blocks purchased with your help in just 15 months Rainforest4Foundation

145 native plant species. Tropical rainforest dominated by Fan Palms. This vegetation type solely occurs between Cardwell and Cape Tribulation and less than half is within reserves. Closed forest ecosystem listed as endangered. Very little of this habitat remains with an estimated 9000ha prior to clearing and 1000ha remaining in 2017.

Area: 1ha  Cost: $25,000

The Black Palm (Normanbya normanbyi) known as Duwar by the Kuku Yalanji, is a food source for the endangered Southern Cassowary and found onsite. This singlestemmed palm grows up to 30m tall and Cassowaries are drawn to its brightly coloured fruits which litter the rainforest floor.

Much of the vegetation on this lot is Mesophyll vine forest, classified as of concern under the Vegetation Management Act 1999. This vegetation type has special values including harbouring plant species which are extremely restricted and uncommon.

*The Black Palm (Normanbya normanbyi) known as duwar by Eastern Yalanjiwarra, is an important cultural resource as well as a food source for the endangered Southern Cassowary.

This vegetation type is the grandest and most archaic of all rainforests in Australia, possessing many primitive flowering plants that is one of the reasons the Wet Tropics was World Heritage listed and it is this forest type that characterises the Daintree lowlands.

Threatened species: Southern Cassowary.


If we don’t look after our planet then we won’t have a healthy Bubu (Country) and if don’t have a healthy Bubu then we will definitely not have a healthy Wawu (spirit). Sheryl Burchill, Cultural Heritage Officer, JYAC. Rainforest4Foundation

Rainforests are disappearing from the Earth. Every day 30,000 hectares of rainforest are destroyed, driving species of plants and animals to extinction. Kelvin Davies 29

Acquisition strategy We engaged wildlife ecologist and protected area management specialist, Wren McLean, to review the entire Daintree lowland subdivision. With her evidence-based audit underpinning it, our Daintree Acquisition Strategy ranks each property against a set of criteria:

1 2 3 4 5 6

Biodiversity status

Eastern Kuku Yalanji Cultural Heritage

Connectivity to protected areas

canopy coverage

wildlife corridor function Rainforest4Foundation

development risk

The Rainforest 4 Foundation Daintree Acquisition identified 207 properties as having freehold title with the possibility of purchase for conservation. These properties were assessed and catalogued to determine the priority properties. Of these 207 properties, 178 are unsettled lots but at risk of development and 29 are partially settled with a small structure (such as low-value shed or cabin) that are at risk of re-development in the future. 36 of the 207 properties have endangered ecosystem status and many more have vegetation ‘of concern’.

95 properties have very high conservation status and are considered high risk for development. These 95 properties are our priority. Availability of properties for acquisition also comes into play. By focusing on these 95 blocks we ensure that the properties we acquire are of the highest possible ecological value and that we continue to protect endangered and vulnerable ecosystems while also winding back development within the Daintree. Over 10 years we have a plan to purchase all 207 properties beginning with these priority properties.


The priority properties to purchase over the next 10 years, in each precinct, in relation to all 207 properties available and the national park boundaries







Join us in purchasing these properties to protect and conserve invaluable ancient madja (rainforest) and Eastern Kuku Yalanji Cultural Heritage Rainforest4Foundation


The Daintree is the oldest living madja (rainforest) on Earth. The threats which are impacting the continuity of evolutionary processes have been around for less than 100 years. We are ideally placed to turn this around but the time to act is now. Please help us Save The Daintree now. Kelvin Davies Rainforest4Foundation


For all enquiries, please contact Kelvin Davies:  [email protected]  0437 423 119  Unit 1, 6-8 Burringbar Street, Mullumbimby NSW 2482  @Rainforest4