Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, Queensland Austrailia
Steve White, Environmental Manager: What are we doing today is this, we're going to look at what sustainable tourism is, what Skyrail is, and what the product is, what our values are as a company, how and why we do that, okay? And the social, environmental, and economic impacts that the business has, but also our initiatives that try and keep that as sustainable as we can. All right? So, that's what I'm going to talk about. But like I said, please stop me anytime. So, sustainable tourism, lots of definitions of it, but the most basic one is to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. I'm sure you've probably heard that at all, all before. But to do that, we've got to take into consideration the environmental impact that we're having, the social impact and benefits that we can create, and the economic obviously. If we're not making money, we don't get to run. So,
we holistically look at that at Skyrail. I'll talk about what Skyrail's values are in a second, but the owner of this business, 28 years ago, sustainable tourism wasn't such a big thing back then. It was just build it and they will come, sort of thing. But he was big, sorry, the family was big on those three principles. So, I'll talk about what we're doing to try and improve social, especially social and environmental initiatives locally. All right. What should operators do? So, we're in the tourism business Cairns used to, before COVID, let's forget about COVID for a minute. We were the fourth biggest airport in Australia for international tourists and it was almost solely on sustainable tourism or tourism initiatives. So, we've got the Great Barrier Reef here,
which I know you've all enjoyed a couple of days ago. We've got the world wet tropics, world Heritage Rainforest, which you're about to experience today. And with that, we've got a whole lot of other produce and things like that that we produce, but it really is a tourism town. Okay, so Cairns was built actually 120 years ago, port Douglas. I don't know if anyone's have you been up to Port Douglas? Little town, 50 km north of us, only a couple of thousand people. It was the main hub of far North Queensland,
but Cairns took off because they built a railway up onto the table lands and that allowed people to access gold and timber. Okay? So, Cairns was a tiny little base and then it boomed because of the railway. And then in the 1980s, the Japanese, especially, had direct flights into Cairns and that's when the international airport started and we had a lot of Japanese investment along with the Australian government and built what you see as Cairns today. So, if you take all of the I know they're not high, high rises, but if you take all of the multi story buildings away from the esplanade, before the 1980s, there was nothing like that. Okay. So, I guess what I'm saying is Cairns is fairly recent into the tourism game, but now that the Great Barrier Reef and this rainforest has World Heritage status, it's really boomed. And when you get on the cable way, have a look to your north. All of those houses that you will see didn't exist 20, 25 years ago. Okay. So,
it was a very sleepy tropical town that's turned into an international fourth biggest in Australia international tourism hub. So, everyone that wants to do backpacking or spend a bit of time, they either fly into Melbourne or Sydney and fly out of here, or they fly into Cairns and fly out of Melbourne or Sydney, because it's a fantastic sort of one way route down the coast. So, because we're in that environment, that's where they decided to build this cableway.
What should we be doing? We should be protecting the natural environment, obviously, conserving heritage and biodiversity. I'll tell you all about our biodiversity soon. Contribute to intercultural understanding. We are right now in the middle of Djabugay country. Djabugay are the cultural people of this land and have been here for 60,000 years plus. So, it's the oldest continually surviving culture in the world. They have so much to give to us. We are
only just scratching the surface at making use of that knowledge. Okay, so I don't know if you know about the history of European settlement in Australia, but it hasn't been a pretty one for a lot of reasons. You know, progress. We're known as a lucky country and Europeans have made a really good fist of it since they've moved over here, me being one of them. It's a fantastic place to live, but we have left the Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander story behind. Djabugay people have so much to give to us and this company is committed to learning more and two way street, you know, talking about Djabugay and learning more about the rainforest here, but also giving back and providing opportunities for the local Djabugay people too. So,
we need to contribute to that understanding, otherwise we're not doing our job properly. Obviously, we need to provide an economic benefit for the local community. A meaningful experience. Hopefully you'll have a great time this morning. A high level of visitor satisfaction promote sustainability. So not just do it, but actually teach people that it's really important so that when everyone visits here, when they walk away, they've got a reason to contribute themselves. Okay. And that's just the definition of sustainability at the bottom. Work hard
to make sure that visitors tomorrow get the same experience or even a better one. All right? So, that's what our view of what sustainable tourism should be doing. I'm going to provide some examples about what we do. We're not perfect, we make mistakes. We're still learning as we go. If you want to challenge anything I'm saying, please do, because we're learning as much as everyone else in the industry. So, what's Skyrail? What are you about to do? Do you know much about what you're about to experience? No. Okay. Do you know what the cave way is? It's just like think of a ski gondola in Colorado, maybe. It's exactly that, but we go over the
rainforest. It's one of the only ones in the world that goes over a forest rather than ski fields or as a transport in a city. So, it was really unique. It goes for seven and a half kilometers. So, we are at Smithfield. You're about to go on a 15 minutes ride up to Red Peak,
which is up at 595 meters above sea level. So that is 1800ft, something like that. So, it's not a massive mountain, but it's enough to change elevation. So, we've got a completely different rainforest community than what we get down in the bottom.
Okay, so go up there, you'll have a guided option of a guided ranger tour. Up there, we have a boardwalk completely raised off the forest floor so that we don't impact the ground there. Then we've got a 20 minutes ride to Barron Falls or Dindin Falls, and then there's a spectacular waterfall, especially in the wet season. At the moment, it's a bit of a trickle, but it's still spectacular. And then you've got a ten minute ride to Kuranda. Kuranda is a very small village right at the top that relied on, firstly, mining and logging, like I said. And then it became like a honeymooner's retreat because it's cooler, it's about four or five degrees cooler. And here, this is like southern Miami, I suppose,
climate wise. So, in the wet season, it's really hot and stinky. It's a nice relief to go up 600 meters above sea level up into Kuranda, and then it became a tourism town. Okay. So, that a lot of old streets opened up and new trinkets were made there and typical tourism items. Okay. Cafes and things like that. So, you get to Kuranda at the end and then how are you getting yourself down? Are you doing the train? yep, yep. Fantastic. And then you'll take the
train back down to Cairns, which is run by the Queensland government. So, this is a private company. The train is run by the government and that originally was built to get up there for that logging and mining, like I said, but now it's a tourism.
I've been told that it's a significant revenue that Queens Rain Rail gets from just that railway. It helps run all of the railway in Queensland because it's so popular. So, that's what we are. It's seven and a half kilometers long. Like I said, that's an example of what you'll see. That's the Barren Gorge just there. So, that's on the way to Dindin Falls. So,
you're about to take that. What's our vision? So, we're family operated, family owned. The Chapman family had a vision to do this to promote, preserve the rainforests that were here, but also to make it a fantastic tourism experience. So, the vision is to provide the best rainforest experience available anywhere in the world.
It's broad, but that's what we're trying to do. So, we're trying to improve our business all the time to keep improving that experience. We've got four brand pillars, which is encouraging people to love the rainforest and want to protect it and increase their knowledge of sustainability and doing the right thing with protecting these lands. So, the first one is to discover stuff we try and encourage people to explore on their own, as much as with the guided ranges to have fun, but also we offer opportunities to contribute back to the community, which I'll talk about at the end. And on top of all of that, our responsibility is to conserve natural heritage, biodiversity, cultural heritage. So, how do we do that? We do that firstly, by employing me. It's really rare, I think,
in the States, it's a really rare thing to have public private partnerships. Ken Chapman and his family have actually employed myself, I'm the environmental manager, but I've also got nine rangers underneath me. We're completely paid by Skyrail and we manage the rainforest underneath Skyrail. So, it's independent of the government. So, like a park ranger in the United States, we work with rangers, government rangers. We work with Djabugay rangers. But we're employed solely by Skyrail to make sure that this rainforest stays
in mint condition and is actually my belief is that it's actually in better condition than it was before Skyrail was built, because we're actively managing pest species and all of that sort of thing and getting access to parts of the rainforest and improving it that wouldn't otherwise be accessed. So, my job is to make sure that you know what's happening, but also to keep this place pristine. How do we do this? So, the discovery part, we've got ranger guided tours. So, we go into the bush, we might spray, we might get rid of any pest species or anything like that, maintain vegetation. If we see vegetation that might be compromised, we try and manicure that vegetation if it's next to our boardwalk, to make sure that it improves the health of the tree. Other than that, we don't touch anything. Okay, but we've got ranger guided tours that
take you guys around the boardwalk, which is at Red Peak. So, we do 20 minutes guided tours to show you all about and try and teach you a little bit about Marina Forest. So up there this morning is Ty. So, Ty is Djabugay. So, he's a Djabugay ranger, local indigenous group. So, he'll take you around the boardwalk if
you're interested in that when you get up there. Ty: Makes it easier for them to climb. They don't hop like your normal kangaroos. So, they climb right to the top of their canopy. And they're not actually eating fruit, they eat leaves. So, you'll find them right at the top of the canopy, eating the new leaves at top of tree. Steve White: We've got interpretive signage, historical displays, nature diary, press releases. So, we sort of talk about things that we've found new animals that are starting to come out into the at different times of the year, flowers, all that sort of thing. So,
we try and promote the rainforest. And we've also got an app. So, when you line up to get on, there's a QR code. Highly recommend you scan that and then it'll talk about the rainforest as you go up. Okay? So, we provide opportunities for information. That's the discovery part. What about the explore part? Well, we've got boardwalks that you can go out over the lookout. The boardwalks are all raised. So, this rainforest community is extremely sensitive to root damage and things like that. A lot of these plants and fungi actually communicate with one another as
far as providing nutrients and all of that sort of thing. And these trees, all the root systems are interwoven. So, it's not like each one is independently just standing there. These two trees here will have a root system that is intertwined, so it increases the stability of the forest. It has really complex interactions with fungi and other species to provide nutrients and things that we're only just beginning to understand. So it's a really sensitive environment. So, we've raised everything so that we're not having people trudge through the mud that would be created. We've got discovery zones and places where you can go and touch and feel and look at seeds and the big cassowary. Is anyone aware of what a
cassowary is? I see them regularly every time I go into the bush. Most times I'll see one, but they've got a large range, kind of like a bear in North America. So, you go for a walk and you'd love to see one in the distance, not too close to you, but it's exciting if you do see it. It's the same with the cassowary. So, I'm not guaranteeing you'll see one, but we do have them wandering around. They have a range of about 3 km² that each individual needs to provide their nutrients. So, those birds are 1.6 meters high, second heaviest
bird in the world after an ostrich. So, they're an impressive bird. I'll talk about them later. So, enjoyment. We want you guys to have fun. The gondola goes up to 40, 45 meters above the ground. So, you're actually skirting above the rainforest. There's not many places in the world where you get to look down on the canopy and actually go through the canopy at stages as well. So, it's a unique
way to look at the rainforest. We have tree kangaroos, so most people know about kangaroos that eat the grass. The kangaroos in here, there's no grass in the rainforest because of competition. So, the kangaroos in here are actually we've got Lumholtz tree kangaroos. They're about seven kilos high in weight. Sorry, I don't know what that is in pounds, maybe 20 pounds, 15. And they sit in the treetops and eat leaves only. Okay, they're very, very cute. You've got pictures of it at Red Peak Station. But we have been seeing them maybe on a weekly basis near Tower Ten. So, keep an eye
out to your left. But we try and make increase the enjoyment, giving you those opportunities. Flying across the top of the canopy, having a look at the waterfall, making it fun. The last pillar that we have is to contribute. We've developed the Skyrail Rainforest Foundation. So, it's a foundation that allows people to either donate if you don't have any time, donating. It gives proceeds to scientists to do further research on the rainforest, tree planting programs, education programs. We sponsor PhD students that are doing scientific research.
So far, somewhere around $800,000 has been donated through that Rainforest Foundation initiative. But people like myself, rangers, go out to the community and do tree plantings at different places too, and talk about rainforest ecosystems and rainforest corridors and cassowaries and things like that. So, we give an opportunity for local people to contribute, but also everyone that goes on Skyrail trip as well. So, they're the four things that we look at and obviously to conserve the rainforest. So, when the Chapmans decided to build this, this wasn't World Heritage. So, World Heritage status,
I think, was given in 1988. We've got state parks, which are run by a local government, and then we've got Commonwealth Government national parks, which is the same as Yosemite or whatever it might be in the States. But then the international community has World Heritage areas and they are identified by UNESCO, which is United Nations. There's several in the United States, there's 200 and something in the world. I think this World Heritage Rainforest is one of them.
Okay? So, to get World Heritage Status, you have to apply to UNESCO and you have to meet a whole bunch of criteria, or at least one of them, and this rainforest meets all of them. Okay? So, it gives you an example of evolutionary history of plants and animals. This rainforest has been around for more than 130,000,000 years. It's the oldest rainforest continually surviving in the world by quite a margin, right? So, these plants and animals have been in isolation. Australia is in the middle of nowhere,
so it's been in isolation for that long, adapting with different conditions over time. So, we've got very unique plants and animals. We've got cultural significance. I've mentioned that with Djabugay people being here for 60,000 years and using this rainforest for that long and all the stories that go with it, we have what is it, cultural beauty. So, you have to be a place of significant beauty and a unique example of geological change. Okay, so Australia's drifted north. We used to be joined to Antarctica, and we've floated slowly north over the last 40, 45 million years. And the ecosystems in Australia have changed. This rainforest used to
go all the way to Western Australia. Okay. Nearly. Perth. So, covered all of Australia, really? And it's retracted only into this little tiny corner now because all of the moisture coming off the ocean is stopped by this mountain range. And it's hot and humid up here and the waterfalls on this side of the mountain range, and it's the only place left where Australia is not that dry. Okay, so it's the only place left where we have this rainforest. But it used to go all over
the continent, so world heritage status means that we meet all of those criteria. Right. So, it's a really special place. David Attenborough, everyone aware of? Yeah. So, David Attenborough has named actually UNESCO and David Attenborough. This is his favorite spot. He's cited North Queensland, but UNESCO says this is the second most important ecosystem left in the world, after one of the national parks in Venezuela because of its so unique, so isolated, been here for so long, so different from everywhere else. So,
it's a really important spot to build this place, we had to be very careful. So, the Chapmans committed to not disturbing it as well. Disturbing it as little as possible. So, all the towers that hold the gondola up, everything was walked in. There were no roads made, no tracks. Everything had to be walked in or helicopter dropped. They hand dug the holes. So,
we're talking five or six meter holes that were and in the wet season here, 35 degrees and 90% humidity. Pretty unforgiving conditions. So they hand dug the holes, hand filled it with concrete or with helicopters, and then they dropped the towers in piece by piece. And they were constructed on site, bolted together one section at a time. So that means that we didn't access anything by road. Barron Falls was an old farm, so we put the stations at places that had been disturbed before, but the actual virgin rainforest has been left. Yeah. So he was really particular
and careful or they were really particular and careful about how they constructed this thing. The towers have a base of about seven x 7 meters, so anything they, they picked sites where there were no large trees, and anything that they had to move, they moved. Every sapling, removed it off site, did their work, and then we replanted every sapling that we could after it. So, it was revegetated. My job is to make sure that the vegetation doesn't touch the towers or the gondolas, but apart from that, we don't touch the rainforest here. So, they went out of their way to make sure we've minimized the impact. Like I said, this place is unique. That's a tree kangaroo. That's not a very good photo, but that's a tree kangaroo there. So,
it looks a little bit like a possum. Very, very shy, but they're super cute. We have best practice here. We try to drive improvement in these things and I'll explain why or how we do that in a minute. But we try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, minimize our water, our ecosystem conservation, air quality, noise reduction. We look at all of that sort of thing and our waste minimization and recycling program. So, I'm just about to put a new waste management system in which all of our bottles go to containers for change.
And all of those proceeds now are going to go straight into the Rainforest Foundation. So, all of the you know, if you've got a bottle of water, put it in the recycling bin and all those proceeds go back into Rainforest Foundation, which is little initiatives like that sort of add up, looking at air quality and noise. There's a road that goes up to Kuranda. If we've got several thousand passengers going on this cableway each day to get themselves to Kuranda, like you guys are as a tourist, it reduces significantly the number of buses, cars, trucks, all of those sort of things that are using the road. So, it's a very efficient way to get there. But not only that, we're removing traffic from the roadways and local other ways to get up there. Okay, so we're trying to do that and promote the use of the cable way in that way as well.
We're looking at solar. We've got a power station here that is powered by water, so it's a sustainable power station. A lot of the power stations in Australia, unfortunately, are still coal and gas. So, we're lagging behind the rest of the world in a lot of aspects as far as clean energy goes. But we're trying to do our best to use off grid. We've got electric vehicles
for our cars now, all of that sort of thing, which I know that you're far more progressed in the United States, but in Australia it's actually a big deal to have an electric car. I think only I think we're up to 3% of Australia's cars are electric. Okay. Whereas I don't know what it is in the States, but hands up if you got electric car in your family. Few people. Yeah. So, 3%, it's still really like it's exciting to see one here still, unfortunately, but we're working towards that. All right, last little section here and then I'll open it up for any questions and then you can get on that skyrail and enjoy it. How do we do it? We've got a team of us, so the rangers
that I work with are super passionate about this. They've dedicated their lives to conservation. They've all either gone to uni or done certificate courses in conservation management. And we love telling the story. So, we've got passionate rangers that try and give the information out to the local public and turn it into a story of, oh, it's just a bunch of trees, to how important this ecosystem actually is. Why do we do it? You could answer that in lots of ways. The most important thing is because it's the right thing to do. We could do it and not have any concerns with the environmental or the community impacts. But that's bad for our business. Not
only is it that, but what's the point? Why would we do that? We can make the same money. We can promote it in a way that it's going to be still an attraction by still improving cultural relations, employing local people, making sure we're preserving the rainforest. So, it's a no brainer to try and improve sustainability. But the other thing is, because it's fun, these guys dedicate their lives to it. And also, because this place is fragile. So, there's several reasons for it. Development, climate change,
could be all manner of reasons. But because we're in this little thin strip of rainforests left, there's not much to preserve. So, if we make sure that what is there is really healthy and what's at the edges is my passion, I suppose if you try and reduce the edge effects on a national park, you're maintaining it forever. Okay, so when national park started, the philosophy really was to put a fence up. Don't let anyone in. All right? But the more that we develop, the more industry gets closer to the edges, the hotter it gets on the edges, the windier it gets, and the forest deteriorates over time. So, gone are
the days where we just lock an area off and say that'll do we need to actively manage it? Right? So, our philosophy is to make sure that these trees are healthy. Not just lock them off from everyone, but make sure that we're actively contributing to making it a better environment. That's why we do it. Also, like I said, it makes good business sense. You have to make money to employ people and that's one way to do it as well. Okay, a couple of last things before I open it up to you guys. We have an environmental management plan. I can send some things to you as well after this if you'd like. Well,
we've got an environmental management plan. It's a document sort of more than 100 pages long. And it is the guidelines for the business, everyone in this business that we have to follow to make sure that we take care of the environmental risks that we go through processes so that this rainforest is not impacted by anyone. So, we've got 120 people plus that work for Skyrail, across different departments. So, the ranges are no worries. That's our thing, environmental stuff. But when you look at the engineers who are maintaining the place, what's it to them? They're just trying to fix a bull wheel or whatever it is. But this
environmental management plan makes sure that every single department is trying to do their bit. It's not just the people on the ground that are making the difference, right? So, we make sure that we educate the engineers, the people in the retail shop, the marketing people, whoever it is, the women and men in the office just behind us here doing all the paperwork. We make sure that they're on board with it as well. So, we've got an environmental management plan, and the big one I have to look after this is EarthCheck certification. So, it's all good to say, yes, we're going to try and do this, but we've employed Earth Check to come in and order dust every single year and make sure that we're delivering on our promises. So, like I said, we're not perfect, but what we're trying to do is make
things a little bit better each year. And then the difference between 20 years ago and now is really noticeable. So, next year we'll try and implement new things and keep all the old things in. Has anyone heard of EarthCheck? So, EarthCheck is an Australian company originally, but it's now global and tourism companies can employ EarthCheck and they come and do a full audit and they do it every year. And it's not cheap, but they assess our power, use our water, use the plastic bags that we use or don't use, where our water comes from or just everything you can think of. Where we store our chemicals, how we transfer petrol, when we have to use a chainsaw to we might have a sick tree and we've got to access a limb, take the chainsaw into the rainforest. How do we take that petrol without spilling it? Do we bleach our boots before we walk into the rainforest so that we're not pollinating weeds and things like that in the rainforest? So, they come and do a week audit. Takes about
a couple of months for them to write it up. And that says, you're doing a good job here, you're doing a good job there. Have you thought of this? That's really bad. Let's change it. So, we employ them to make sure that we're trying to do the best that we can. We're also part of Ecotourism Australia. Cairns is now being marketed as an ecotourism hub.
One of our Queensland strategies is to say this is an ecotourism hotspot. This is where all of our businesses are going to try and commit to being eco certified, which means that we're improving our business as we go and that's helping generate people are now interested in environmental tourism. They want to choose the right thing to do. They don't want to just go overseas anymore and go to Australians, go to Bali. I don't know where you guys go, Mexico or wherever it might be. It's not just a choice of the cheapest flight anymore. They want
to go there, but then do the right thing. So, this area here has committed to that and we're part of Ecotourism Australia as far as that certification goes. And the last thing is we try and employ local people. Only up until COVID, that was true. Everyone here was a local and we try to put money back into the community and employ only local people. When COVID happened, it was a little bit different to how it happened
in the States. Australia pretty much went into lockdown and this business closed down for nine months without one customer because of border went. I actually took leads. I was going to travel with my family for one month across Europe and Asia, and I went down to my mom and dad down in Victoria, southern Australia, to say hi and goodbye for a couple of weeks. But then COVID happened and I was stuck on my sister in law's lounge room floor for six months because I wasn't allowed to cross the border to come back home. I don't
know if that happened in the States, in any of the states, but if you can imagine living in California and you go and visit your friend or your mom in Texas before you went on the trip, and then all of a sudden Texas said you can't leave because or California wouldn't let you back. That's what happened here. So, I slept on my mother in law's….She lived near the beach, so that was okay, but I slept on her sister in law. Sorry. Slept on her floor for six months. Had to wait until the borders opened. As soon as the borders opened, I could come back to Queensland and I tried to find work again back at home. So, you can imagine how unsettling that is. We didn't have a worker here, sorry, a customer here for nine months. The Chapman's did not put
anyone off, so a lot of people decided to go home because they were hurting and they needed to be with their family and all of that sort of thing. But anyone that wanted to stay, the Chapman family found a job for them here, even though we were closed. So that commitment to local community is really like, I take my hat off to the owners of this business because that's a massive commitment, as you can understand. We got government incentives. So, the government did do handouts to people that were unemployed. Ah, sorry. To businesses that had employers, but no customers. But they committed to that.
I've been through all of that. As a result, we've got lots of tourism awards. You can go onto our website, that's what I'd recommend, going onto the website and having a look at what initiatives we've got, all of the sustainability stuff and the awards that we've received. But you take care of the environment, you take care
of the local community and the money. You've got to work hard, but the money takes care of itself. Okay? So, that's my message to you, is that if you do do the right thing, then actually the money comes and it comes improved, new and improved. So, that's the philosophy for Skyrail and that's it for my presentation, but I wanted to open up the floor. It doesn't have to be sustainable related or if you would like me to address anything in particular. Yes, mate.
Audience member 1: When you're managing the rainforest for invasive species, do you find that international or within Australia, species are worse? Because we went through all the biosecurity measures, but if something coming from a different part of Australia, it would be a bigger problem. Steve White: Yeah, so bit of both. So, when Australia was open up to Europeans firstly, because we've been isolated for so long it was the same as North America but because we've been isolated so long, things like rabbits were you think rabbits know harmless, but they caused irreparable damage to this land and most of it was people like English people, often Scottish, would come over, they'd have a plot of land and they used to hunt over there, traditionally, and they'd like, well, there's nothing to hunt here other than the kangaroo. So, I'm going to release some rabbits, release some foxes, and then I can go hunting with my friends. And so, all of a sudden, we've got these massive pest species problem.
Foxes, rabbits, pigs are a big one here. And as far as the trees and plants go, a lot of the invasive vines from Southeast Asia grow really well here. So, there's not really any plants that we get from the rest of Australia that worry us or animals, because they don't survive well in this environment. But plants that are there's a plant called Miconia,
which is a real problem in Hawaii, I think, but also in other parts. It's from South American, I think it might be South American rainforest plant, but it has this really invasive it grows really fast, massive leaves, overshadows everything and everything dies underneath it. So, the answer is international species. Pests are really problematic because we've got similar ecosystems to overseas. But other animals in Australia, they love the dry lands, which doesn't affect us as much. Pigs are our big problem for animals. Lantana is our biggest
problem for plants, which is a vine that sort of smothers trees. So, we go in and look after that here, but it's almost not a problem anymore, which is great. Cane toad. Have you heard of a cane toad? Yeah, some people have. Massive toad that big. Cane farmers came in here about 100 years ago and planted in the lowlands, but we had cane beetles that started eating all the cane. So, they introduced cane toad from South America and it worked, they ate cane beetles, but they've got poisonous glands on the back of their neck. And all of our animals, snakes, rodents, marsupials, they thought, oh, new food source, and they started eating them, but then they'd all die. So,
if you ate a cane toad, the animal would die. So these cane toads have now spread from they were released in Gordonvale, which is the next town south and they've spread all the way across the country in the north, and they've reached Sydney now, I think, or close to Sydney. The animals are adapting, but big mistake because we've lost we've reduced a lot of species of snakes and marsupials because any other questions? Yes. Audience member 2: So, Skyrail took some pretty strong stances on employment and corporate social responsibility with regards to the pandemic. How do you think that impacted
the number of people who came back to work? Steve White: Yeah, so really positively. Skyrail has a good reputation because of that. It's got a reputation of a good place to work because of the stability that it offers. And we try and create good career progression as well. So, I think it's cost them money in the short term, but in the long term, I think it's a really positive move. Yeah. So, people here are often quite loyal. I've just employed a person to come across from another department into the ranger department this week because they've been here as a housekeeper, so cleaning for four or five years, and they're committed. He said to me in the interview, I want to retire here. So, we've offered him another opportunity so
that he stays interested. So, yeah, it really does work. So, if you show loyalty to your employees, employees will show loyalty to you. Yeah, for sure. COVID really did knock Australia for six. So, there are some people that left and they haven't returned, but that's just the nature of it. Big country…takes a long….Brisbane is our next city. Next big city. And it's two and a half thousand kilometers away. So, what's that 1800 miles away is our next city of significance. Other than that, it's just small towns. So, it's like going through Midwest United States, little towns like that, all the way to Brisbane. So, if you live in Brisbane,
it takes a lot to come. The short answer is yeah, it's really [unintelligible] Any other questions? Last chance for animals or anything like that you want to see before you go? Yes. Audience member 3: Would you say invasive species is the biggest challenge during preservation or something else? Steve White: Which species? Audience member 3: Invasive. Steve White: Oh, which invasive? Cane toads. For in general? Cane toads. Are you talking about for this rainforest or Australia in general?
Audience member 3: In general. Steve White: So, in Australia, cats, foxes, rabbits. Okay. So, really destructive to the soil. We've got a really dry environment, usually, so the soil structure is super important if you destroy I don't know what you guys have if you've done any soil science, but soil science sounds really boring until you get into it and how important soil is and the structure of the nutrients in there. So,
foxes, rabbits, cats have really killed a lot of things here. Cane toads, pigs and miconia, which is that invasive plant. Yeah, I should say, too. I'll give you my email address if you guys have any questions about sustainability initiatives or invasive species or anything like that or you're doing a project. I don't know what you're doing for your assessment. I'm happy to answer anything at any time. All right, so I'll send that to you and you
can email me anything. It doesn't have to be Skyrail related either. It could be anything because I'm passionate about educating people. It's important that people realize that this stuff matters. Yeah. Any other questions? Yes Audience member 4: Just a quick one. What's your educational background? Steve White: Myself? So, I went to high school down in southern New South Wales. So, in a country town, Midwest sort of sort of town. Did my schooling there at a public school and then traveled. Was a diver for ages. Loved some I did some ranger work and loved it. So, I did a bachelor of Science from that. And so,
really in zoology, so I specialized in animals, and then that led me to doing talks and things like that. And so, then I did education. So, I've got a bachelor of Science in zoology, a postgraduate diploma in education, and then I was a high school teacher for 20 years. And now I'm back into the ranging stuff because who wants to be a high school teacher? No, they're important was either I move and do something exciting now or keep in the industry, and I decided to bite the bullet. But yeah. Bachelor of Zoology. Marine Biology is James Cook University here, if anyone's interested in oceans and things like that. Lots of information for James Cook University for that sort of thing. Yeah.
All right. Any last minutes? I should let you go. You've been locked in a dark room for an hour and you should be looking at the Rain Forest.