21 January 2020
Tree-Dwellers of the Tropics
Issue date: 21-January-2020
Issue withdrawal date: 31-July-2020
Denomination: $1.10 x 3
Stamp design: Kevin Stead
Product design: Simone Sakinofsky, Australia Post Design Studio
Paper: gummed: Tullis Russell 104gsm Red Phosphor/Blue PVA
Printer: RA Printing
Printing process: Offset lithography
Stamp size (mm): 26 x 37.5
Minisheet size (mm): 130 x 80
Perforations: 14.6 x 13.86
Sheet layout: Modules of 50
FDI Postmark: Cairns QLD 4870
FDI withdrawal date: 18-February-2020
Spanning almost 9,000 square kilometres, the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area is located between Townsville and Cooktown in northern Queensland. The area boasts one of the largest rainforest wilderness areas in Australia, as well as spectacular gorges and waterfalls, and coastlines dotted with coral reefs.
Perched high above the forest floor, camouflaged in the canopy, are the tree-dwelling mammals of the Wet Tropics. At night, they socialise and feed, before jumping, flying or gliding to their next destination. Many species are rare, endangered and endemic. The high proportion of threatened species is due to the way that its habitat has evolved, as well as forest clearing and changes to water and fire regimes. However scientific research has shown the greatest threat facing the biodiversity of the Wet Tropics is climate change. As a result of extreme temperatures in recent years, the possum and flying-fox featured in this stamp issue have experienced significant population declines.
The stamp illustrations, by wildlife artist Kevin Stead, present each tree-dwelling mammal perched in a preferred species of tree.
Read our interview with Terry Carmichael, from the Wet Tropics Management Authority, about these incredible creatures.
$1.10 – Bennett’s Tree-kangaroo
Found between the Daintree River, Windsor Tableland and Cooktown, the solitary, near-threatened Bennett’s Tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus bennettianus) is rarely seen on the ground, unless it needs to travel between fragmented rainforest patches. Tree-kangaroos are the largest tree-dwelling mammal in Australia. They can move their hind legs independently, unlike their terrestrial relatives, which equips them for life in the trees. On the stamp, this species is sitting in an Umbrella Tree (Schefflera actinophylla), with its almost metre-long tail dangling down.
$1.10 – Lemuroid Ringtail Possum
The Lemuroid Ringtail Possum (Hemibelideus lemuroides) is found only from Cardwell to the Daintree. It is strictly arboreal, leaping onto the ends of branches in search of flowers, fruits and leaves to eat. The very rare white version featured on the stamp was spotted in 2017, after being presumed extinct due to rising temperatures. It is pictured on the branch of a Queensland Maple (Flindersia brayleyana).
$1.10 – Spectacled Flying-fox
The Spectacled Flying-fox (Pteropus conspicillatus) is a mega-bat, named for the rings around its eyes. Along with other fruit bats, it plays a vital role in the forest by pollinating plants and dispersing seeds. In Australia, the largest population is in the Wet Tropics, between Townsville and Cooktown, where it is vulnerable (though under Commonwealth legislation the species is now listed as endangered). On the stamp, the Spectacled Flying-fox is hanging from a yellow-flowered Golden Penda (Xanthostemon chrysanthus).
Historically, rainforests tend not to burn — as the name implies, they are simply too wet. In late 2018, the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area near Cairns, Queensland, burned for ten days with mature rainforest trees destroyed across about 250 hectares. A single story in a local newspaper, focusing on how the fire started, appears to be the only time it had been reported until an article appeared in The Guardian on 24 November 2019.
Experts and rainforest authorities say the remarkable extent of the damage, across an environment supposed to naturally suppress fires, is among the clearest evidence that climate change has shifted the paradigm in the tropics. The recent devastating bushfires in south-east Queensland, Cape York’s Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park and within the Wet Tropics near Silkwood were so severe, they did encroach on areas of rainforest that are not usually threatened.
The current catastrophe in Australia has been horrifying to witness and I pray that the world comes together in relief and support in its wake. Australia Post has suspended deliveries in areas affected as citizens and animals alike are losing lives and property in astonishing numbers. The philatelic community has banded together as so many others. It is highly likely that Australia (and other stamp issuers) will eventually release aid stamps, possibly with surtaxes to raise money for affected victims and agencies.