Managing biodiversity - threatened species

traditional owner Clarke Martin holding a bilby dug out of its burrow as part of a fauna monitoring project involving the CLC Warlpiri Rangers

The CLC has expanded its programs to conserve some of Australia's most rare and threatened species and to promote biodiversity throughout its vast region.

It is increasingly part of collaborative and independent initiatives for the protection of wildlife on Aboriginal land.

Much of this effort is focused on species considered vulnerable or endangered and other species of cultural significance to traditional owners. These activities contribute significantly to the knowledge and management of biodiversity values across Central Australia through the utilisation of both Indigenous Ecological Knowledge and western scientific approaches.

CLC ranger groups across the region are collaborating with scientists from the NT Parks and Wildlife Service and the NT Herbarium to survey flora and fauna in areas that have had little survey work in the past. Other collaborative biodiversity projects between CLC rangers and scientists have focused on testing new approaches to monitor populations (such as the use of motion-sensitive infra-red cameras to detect animals drinking at waterholes during the night), or trialling new bait delivery devices that exclude dingoes but allow foxes to take 1080 baits project. 

slaters skink

Left: A Slater’s skink outside its burrow in habitat near Hermannsburg where Tjuwanpa Rangers undertake regular monitoring of the population

Other recent examples include:

  • Collaborative population monitoring and fire and weed management work to protect recently discovered populations of the nationally endangered Slater’s skink on Loves Creek Station (involving the Ltyentye Apurte Rangers) and near Hermannsburg (Tjuwanpa Rangers). Traditional owners from Ntaria gave permission early in 2011 for Alice Springs Desert Park to take a small number of lizards into captivity to start a breeding population to help with the recovery effort for this species;
  • A survey for black-footed rock wallabies in the remote Lake Mackay ALT and Mt Windajongu areas of the proposed Southern Tanami IPA in 2010 and 2011 involving Warlpiri Rangers, traditional owners, scientists and IPA support staff. On that survey positive sign of rock wallabies was detected at two new locations at healthy populations documented at sites not surveyed since the early 1980s.
  • A four-day bilby survey along the upper reaches of the Hanson River in 2011 by Muru-warinyi Ankkul Rangers to determine the health of this remnant population surviving along the railway corridor;
  • Continuing track-based threatened species monitoring and protective fire management targeting bilby populations at Sangster’s Bore and at sites along the Lander River;
  • Threatened plant survey in 2010 on the Angarapa and Alyawarra ALTs with Kaytetye and Alyawarr traditional owners and specialist staff from NRETAS resulting in the discovery of two undescribed plant species and two rare species; and,
  • Princess Parrot surveys on the Haast Bluff Aboriginal Land Trust in late 2010 after a local irruption of this nationally threatened bird. Traditional owners worked alongside CLC staff and the Papunya Rangers to survey new areas for sign of the birds and to guide bird-watchers to populations away from important cultural sites.

Tanami Biodiversity Monitoring Program

The CLC has worked closely with Newmont mining company to coordinate surveys for the Tanami Biodiversity Monitoring Program (TBMP) for a number of years.

The program was established to obtain base-line data for assessing the cumulative impacts of mining operations on biodiversity on Aboriginal lands in the Tanami region. It continues to serve as a valuable annual opportunity to further develop the skills of CLC ranger groups in the Tanami region and now represents one of the most long-term regional population monitoring datasets in existence for the region.

The CLC is currently in negotiation with Newmont about the timing of the next survey and is also jointly developing a program of contract-based land management works for CLC rangers in the 2011-12 period within the mining lease areas.

Cybertrackers – a new tool for rangers to record biodiversity data

cybertracker 

Use of Cybertrackers as tools for Indigenous land management in Central Australia is becoming increasingly popular as rangers become familiar with their ease of use. A Cybertracker is a hand-held computer which uses sequences of pictograms rather than words or numbers to spatially record cultural and natural resource information.

Right: the Cybertracker

It is particularly suited for people with highly refined tracking knowledge but low literacy and numeracy levels, allowing them to make unique and otherwise unobtainable contributions to biodiversity management.

Within the CLC’s land management program Cybertrackers are now used for track-based monitoring, weed mapping or pastoral condition monitoring by most indigenous ranger groups. In mid 2010 the federal government provided funding through the Caring for our Country initiative for a Cybertracker support positions in Central Australia, Northern Australia and the South-eastern region. The focus of these support positions, which include one position based within the CLC, is to deliver training to ranger groups for all aspects of Cybertracker use and to develop standardised data recording sequences for the collection of fire, threatened species, weed and feral data.

It is expected that by having standardised data recording sequences, it will be easier for groups to share management data and collaborate more easily on cross-border management projects.

By 2012 it is hoped that there will be a dedicated website for all Aboriginal ranger groups to access in order to download new Cybertracker sequences, troubleshoot any technical errors, and to network to share learnings.