Native animal monitoring and back to bush basics in Arnhem Land

6 September 2013

Djelk Indigenous rangers, Traditional Owners, scientists and school students recently returned from an eight day biodiversity monitoring and cultural learning expedition near Mankorlod outstation. djelk-rangersweb
The group ran a multifaceted camp in the Djelk Indigenous Protected Area, monitoring native animals and feral cats, and exchanging traditional land management knowledge between rangers, senior Traditional Owners, and students from Maningrida Community Education College (CEC).
Northern Territory Government scientist Alys Stevens said the expedition had emphasised the importance of using local knowledge and skills such as animal tracking to complement new scientific technology.
“Fifty motion sensor cameras were installed in the fringing stone country of the Arnhem Plateau, with 25 accessible by car and foot, and 25 sites accessible by helicopter,” Ms Stevens said.
“The rangers and Traditional Owners provided valuable advice on where to place the cameras, with the goal of capturing a range of fire histories and as much animal activity as possible.”
Results from the camera trapping are expected in five weeks, but recent and unequivocal signs of native animals such as echidna, emu, black wallaroo, fresh water crocodiles, water goanna and native water and rock rats were found.
“What we know from previous surveys is that native mammal numbers are very low, and many species such as the golden-backed tree-rat, northern hopping mouse, brush-tailed phascogale and golden bandicoot are in severe decline,” Ms Stevens said.
“Motion sensor cameras are proving to be an increasingly important monitoring tool, because they allow us to capture data about animals which are becoming too rare to record with conventional methods.”
The camp was deliberately combined with the Djelk Rangers Learning on Country Program collaboration with Maningrida CEC. Senior Traditional Owners coordinated visits to rock art and other special sites, and shared their knowledge about bush tucker, medicinal plant and art material harvest.
“Inviting Traditional Owners to join these trips is essential – for their support, to build understanding about the research occurring on their country, and to provide meaningful learning opportunities for the younger generation,” Ms Stevens said.
“There are so many benefits for both country and people when the land is cared for and shared in this way, which is why it’s so important to continue on country activities which provide a range of scientific, social, cultural and educational outcomes.”
The expedition was supported by the Northern Australia hub of the National Environmental Research Program.

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