Native biodiversity

Curbing the decline

Indigenous rangers, living and working on Country, are best placed to curb the decline in native biodiversity loss and improve habitat for future generations. The Karrkad Kanjdji Trust supports rangers in West and Central Arnhem Land who tirelessly blend Indigenous ecological knowledge and western science to control threats and help native species begin to thrive in their natural environment.

During the second half of the twentieth century, Traditional Owners largely moved away from remote parts of Arnhem Land, encouraged by missions, work opportunities and larger communities. Country was orphaned (the term used for land without its people) for a number of decades – enough time for fine-scale fire management to be replaced by raging yearly wildfires, and for feral animals and invasive plants to outcompete native species.

The local ecosystem, and the plants and animals that make it up, evolved alongside Bininj (the Aboriginal people of Western Arnhem Land). The disruption in intensive Indigenous land management has led to plummeting numbers of small to medium–weight mammals, including culturally important species like djabbo/northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) and bakkadji/black-footed tree-rat (Mesembriomys gouldii). Refugia, including rainforest patches, have shrunk, and fresh-water places have been destroyed.

'When we, Bininj people, see animals, we get excited because they play a big role in our life through our ceremonies.

This year we have seen lots of animals that we love, but we hope this number increases so we can physically show our children rather than relying on rock art to tell the stories.’

— Terrah Guymala, Senior Warddeken Ranger

Australia has one of the highest rates of biodiversity loss in the world – over one in 10 land mammal species are now extinct, with one in five threatened, and 13 per cent of our natural vegetation lost. Our precious places are suffering from changes in land use, feral species invasion and the impacts of a changing climate. One such place is Arnhem Land, one of Australia’s most biodiverse and culturally rich regions.

Owned and managed by Traditional Owners with connection and knowledge that dates back tens of thousands of years, the vast landscape is characterised by elevated stone country, floodplains, remnant rainforest patches, savanna woodlands and spectacular sea country.

Mayh (Animal) Recovery Project

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Mayh Recovery Project Warddeken Rangers, working with an in-house ecologist, are fine-tuning the way they manage their 1.4-million-hectare Indigenous Protected Area, to protect and enhance threatened and culturally important native species. By better understanding which mayh remain in the landscape, where and why, rangers can adapt land management actions to conserve populations and the habitats they rely on.

Protecting the savanna glider

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The Mimal Women Rangers, alongside Traditional Owners, have expressed their desire to better understand one of the unique arboreal species of Arnhem Land, the savanna glider (Petaurus ariel). Originally thought to be a sugar glider, the savanna glider lives in the woodland savannas of Northern Australia, and has only recently been recognised as a distinct species.