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Bush Tucker, Bush Pets, and Bush Threats: Cooperative Management of Feral Animals in Australia's Kakadu National Park

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Bush Tucker, Bush Pets, and Bush Threats: Cooperative Management of Feral Animals in Australia's Kakadu National Park
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  Bush Tucker, Bush Pets, and Bush Threats:Cooperative Management of Feral Animals in Australia’s Kakadu National Park  CATHERINE J. ROBINSON, ∗ DERMOT SMYTH,† AND PETER J. WHITEHEAD‡ ∗ School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences, University of New South Wales at The Australian Defence Force Academy, Northcott Drive, Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia, email catherine.robinson@csiro.au†School of Tropical Environment Studies and Geography, James Cook University, P.O. Box 1202, Atherton, QLD 4883, Australia‡Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia  Abstract:  Although feral animal management is often based on the proposition that introduced speciesthreaten ecological and conservation values, that view is not necessarily shared by all stakeholders, including those indigenous people who own and co-manage Kakadu National Park with Australia’s federal government. Drawing on field-based interviews with the Jawoyn people, we found that these indigenous people categorizewater buffalo (  Bubalus bubalis  ) as an important food source (tucker), view horses (  Equus caballus  ) as bush pets, and consider pigs (  Sus scrofa  ) a threat to their lands. As a result, Jawoyn people want more water buffaloin the park, have high tolerance of environmental damage caused by horses, and are open to the idea that  pig population densities should be reduced. Jawoyn also advocate an adaptive and participatory approachto feral animal control so that the consequences of any management actions can be properly understood before irrevocable change occurs. These findings highlight one example of how indigenous people’s ecological knowledge has adapted in response to changing landscapes and community aspirations. Co-management  strategies that aim to incorporate the dynamics of indigenous people’s views need to start with issues onwhich there is agreement between different groups and take a cautious approach to joint exploration of morecontentious issues. That approach should include ongoing and on-site monitoring so that the consequences of management actions can be properly understood and comprehensively negotiated by all parties. Key Words:  adaptive management, bush pets, bush tucker, co-management, feral animal damage, indigenousecological knowledge Alimento,MascotasyAmenazasenelMatorral:ManejoCooperativodeAnimalesCimarronesenelParqueNacionalKakadu en Australia Resumen:  Aunque el manejo de animales cimarrones a menudo se basa en la propuesta de que las especiesintroducidas son una amenaza para los valores ecol ´ ogicos y de conservaci ´ on, este punto de vista no necesari-  amente es compartido por todos los interesados, incluyendo el pueblo ind ´ ıgena que es due˜ no del y cogestiona el Parque Nacional Kakadu con el gobierno federal Australiano. Con base en entrevistas de campo a ind ´ ıgenas  Jawoyn, encontramos que los ind ´ ıgenas categorizan al b´ ufalo (  Bubalus bubalis  ) como una importante fuentede alimento, perciben a los caballos (  Equus caballus  ) como mascotas y consideran a los cerdos (  Sus scrofa  )como amenazas a sus tierras. Como resultado, los Jawoyn quieren m´ as b´ ufalos en el parque, son tolerantes al da˜ no ambiental que causan los caballos y est ´ an abiertos a la idea de que se debe reducir la densidad de las poblaciones de cerdos. Los Jawoyn tambi ´ en apoyan un m´ etodo adaptativo y participativo para el con- trol de animales cimarrones de manera que las consecuencias de cualquier acci ´ on de manejo puedan ser entendidas correctamente antes de que ocurran cambios irrevocables. Estos hallazgos realzan un ejemplo dela adaptaci ´ on del conocimiento ecol ´ ogico aut ´ octono a los cambios en el paisaje y en las aspiraciones de la  Paper received May 18, 2004; revised manuscript accepted November 2, 2004. 1385 Conservation Biology 1385–1391 C  2005 Society for Conservation Biology DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2005.00196.x  1386  Co-management of Feral Animals Robinson et al. comunidad. Las estrategias de cogesti ´ on orientadas a incorporar la din´ amica de las percepciones de gruposind ´ ıgenas necesitan comenzar con asuntos en los que haya acuerdo entre los diferentes grupos y hacer unacercamiento cauteloso a la exploraci ´ on conjunta de temas m´ as contenciosos. Este acercamiento debe incluir  unmonitoreocontinuoypuntualparaquelasconsecuenciasdelasaccionesdemanejopuedanserentendidascorrectamente y negociadas exhaustivamente por todos los interesados. Palabras Clave:  alimento en el matorral, cogesti´on, conocimiento ecol´ogico aut´octono, da ˜no por animalescimarrones, manejo adaptativo, mascotas en el matorral Introduction Indigenous people who own lands often have to managetheconsequencesofexoticandferalfloraandfauna,habi-tat fragmentation, and significant changes to species di- versity and distribution. Thus, applications of indigenousecological knowledge and management approaches havehad to adapt to dramatically changing circumstances. Weexamined these issues through an analysis of how the Jawoyn people from northern Australia draw on a com-plex mix of their indigenous laws, ecological knowledge,and historical experience to respond to the presence andimpacts of often large numbers of introduced animals ontheirlands.InparticularwefocusedonJawoynresponsesto pigs (  Sus scrofa  ), horses (   Equus caballus  ), and water buffalo (   Bubalus bubalis  ) and examined how these val-ues affect their appraisals of the impacts these specieshave on areas in their “country.” In the Australian con-text, country describes an indigenous place of srcin—literally, culturally, and spiritually. Country is thereforemore than a geographical area: it is shorthand for all the values, places, resources, stories, and cultural obligationsassociated with indigenous people’s rights and identity (Smyth 1994; Baker et al. 2001).Despite the ecological, cultural, and social change ex-perienced by many indigenous people around the world,much of the literature surrounding indigenous peoples’ethics and practices of ecological care focuses on the col-lection of “traditional” ecological knowledge (TEK) andlawsandtheirapplicationtopracticesofsustainableman-agement of natural terrains and resources (e.g., Williams& Baines 1993). Although TEK is recognized as detailedand wide in scope, little research has been done on is-suessurroundinghowindigenousmanagementstrategiesand TEK have responded to altered landscapes. Instead,TEK is often thought to provide pre-European ecologicalinformation and insights that can be incorporated intoscientific or government goals to conserve or preserve achosen biological state, habitat, or natural process. An understanding of indigenous people’s current views, knowledge, and aspirations for their lands is par-ticularly important in co-management programs that pro- videinstitutionalarrangementsforindigenouspeopleandstate agencies to negotiate a regime of rights, obligations,andprocessesforenvironmentaldecisionmaking(Smyth 2001;Brosius2004).Co-managementarrangementsofteninclude a commitment to integrate indigenous and west-ern knowledge systems and values (e.g., Kakadu Boardof Management 1999). But the mechanisms by which co-management can accommodate indigenous and westernenvironmental knowledge and management systems re-main uncertain. Nonetheless, co-managers are expectedto employ these partnerships to rehabilitate environ-ments and to maintain them in an agreed-upon “healthy”state.In Australia the Board of Management of Kakadu Na-tional Park is currently tackling these issues to meet their international and national obligations to protect the park against feral animal damage. The wetlands of Kakaduare listed under the Ramsar Convention, which entrainsexplicit international obligations to protect these sitesagainst the spread of invasive alien species. Kakadu isalso listed under the World Heritage Convention for both culturalandnaturalvalues,whichrequiresparkmanagersto maintain site integrity, including actions that deal with processeswhichthreatenordegradethesenaturalvalues.Kakadu is also recognized as a “living Absrcinal land-scape” in the park’s current plan of management (POM), whichoutlinesthebasicplanningandpolicyobjectivesof the co-management arrangement (Kakadu Board of Man-agement1999).Implementationofthegovernment’sobli-gations for the park is prescribed under the Environmen-tal Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999(EPBC Act), which provides inter alia for a board of man-agement with an Absrcinal majority. The EPBC Act alsoprovides an Australia-wide commitment to promote a co-operative approach to the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of Australia’s biodiversity that involves in-digenouspeoplesandappliestheirknowledgetothecon-servation and use of biological resources.It is within this unique cross-cultural and ecologicalcontext that a feral animal strategy is being developedfor Kakadu. The strategy is based on a commitment todevelop feral animal control programs with indigenoustraditional owners that focus on quantifying and reduc-ing the damage associated with feral animals and to con-sider economic aspects (costs and benefits) of controland utilization options. A key issue that has emerged inassociatedconsultationsistheimportanceofunderstand-ing the different values indigenous people attribute toferal animals, their appraisals of feral animal impacts, andif, how, and why these views converge with other values Conservation Biology  Volume 19, No. 5, October 2005   Robinson et al. Co-management of Feral Animals  1387  Figure1. Location of Kakadu National Park and  proposed Southern Feral Animal Planning Subregionthat was the geographical focus of this research. that Kakadu is obliged to protect. This includes feral ani-mal management issues in a proposed southern planningsubregion for feral animal control within the park, which lies within Jawoyn country and is the geographical focusof our paper (Fig. 1). Methods The Jawoyn people are among the many different groupsofindigenouspeoplewhoarerecognizedtraditionalown-ersofKakaduandhaverightstoberepresentedonthe14-member Kakadu Board of Management. Jawoyn live and work in a number of the region’s towns or settlements,including Darwin, Katherine, Werenben Absrcinal Com-munity, Kybrook Absrcinal Community, and the Mary River District Ranger Station. Their country is a language-defined geographical area that includes the southern por-tion of Kakadu. A range of methodologies developed to conduct cross-cultural research with indigenous people was used for this research  (Gibbs 2001). We held meetings in Absrci-nal communities or at sites chosen by Jawoyn people andconducted a 3-day workshop that attracted more than20 participants. We also met with separate gatherings of men and women and ran small-group field trips attendedby members of individual communities. During this pro-cess the Jawoyn identified six key elders (three womenand three men) who could express and confirm Jawoyn views about feral animal issues for the southern regionof Kakadu. These elders were chosen because Jawoynrecognized them as the senior traditional owners for thisregion, they had extensive knowledge of this area, andthey had an interest in feral animal issues in the park. We followed certain protocols in an effort to encour-age informality, facilitate Jawoyn input, and ensure thatthe wider Jawoyn community supported stated views. We were flexible with interview times and location, and Jawoynchildrenoftenaccompaniedusonfieldtripstoen-ableelderstoteachthemaboutimportantareasorissues.Interviews were mostly conducted in English although a Jawoyn interpreter was sometimes used. Occasionally Ja- woyn collaborators would discuss an issue in their tradi-tional language before an English answer was provided.Funds were allocated to pay for these field trips and em-ploytheJawoynparticipantsinvolved.Summarynewslet-ters were also periodically sent to each community toprovide information on the project’s findings, proposetimes for visits, and encourage feedback with community members. Jawoyn collaborators were asked to articulate the val-ues they associated with pigs, horses, and buffalo andidentify key indicators that measured the impacts each species had on habitats within their country. In the firstof three phases we focused on identifying the relation-shipstheseJawoynindividualshadwithpigs,buffalo,andhorses; the key indicators they used to appraise the im-pactstheseanimalshadondifferentsitesandhabitats;andpriority areas for pig, buffalo, and horse care or control.These priority areas were home, harvesting areas, sacredsites, historic sites, tourist sites, jungles, escarpment gul-lies, coastal swamps, rivers, stony country, sealed roads,four-wheel-drive tracks (where there were no tourists),and walking tracks. We then asked Jawoyn collaboratorsto characterize (positive or negative) and prioritize (very good,good,fairlygood,bad,fairlybad,verybad)impactsof high densities and low densities of each species for these priority areas. The final phase involved reportingand checking results with Jawoyn collaborators and the wider Jawoyn community. Only values and views that re-ceived wider community support are presented here. Results  Water Buffalo (Bush Tucker)  Jawoyn elders revealed that although there is some con-cern about the damage buffalo cause to certain habitatsandsacredsites,theseanimalsareconsideredto“belong” Conservation Biology  Volume 19, No. 5, October 2005  1388  Co-management of Feral Animals Robinson et al. to Jawoyn country. Interviews and field visits to pastand current buffalo hunting areas highlighted that this widespread view was largely due to the value of buffalomeat. A buffalo provides plenty of food (tucker) to share.This reduces the potential for conflict among the largenumbers of Jawoyn people who have rights to this re-source because they have traditional ties or are long-termresidents of the country in which the buffalo was killed.Remnantsofstockyards,buffalocamps,andstationsas-sociatedwithpastbuffaloindustriesprovideanimportantfocus of visits to historic sites. Field visits with Jawoyn el-dersofteninvolvedstoppingatthesesites,anditwashere where family and work histories were recalled. These vis-its included discussions surrounding the widespread be-lief that the buffalo is a creature relevant to spiritual be-liefs. The species has become enmeshed with other Abo-riginal Dreaming beings whose travels and presence areembedded in the identity of, and connections between, Jawoyn people and country. Arepeatedpointmadeduringinterviewsandfieldtrips was that visiting sacred sites, telling buffalo histories,hunting buffalo for food, distributing meat, and report-ing on the health of the country to elders are centralfeatures of Jawoyn management efforts to “care for coun-try.” Their management includes application of burningpractices that have been used for thousands of years tofacilitate traveling through country, hunting, and main-taining various habitats within the landscape. Burning isdone after the first storms in the hope that follow-up rain will produce quantities of green feed. Caring for coun-try with buffalo also includes telling “shared histories” by recent generations who “worked together” with buffalosand white pastoralists and shooters. Oral histories wereoften shared when Jawoyn saw the presence of buffalo,dung,andwallows.Thesesignsoftheanimalpresenceinthe landscape help, as one Jawoyn woman put it, “readdifferent stories of our past.” A national Brucellosis and Tuberculosis EradicationCampaign (BTEC) greatly reduced buffalo populationsthroughout the Northern Territory in the late 1980s, in-cluding Kakadu National Park. Small herds still exist, butareas where buffalo once roamed have now seen an ex-plosionofpigpopulations.ManyJawoynpeopleareupsetthat there are “too few” buffalo within the park and holdhopesthatbuffalodistributionanddensitieswillincreasenow that the BTEC program has ended. One senior Ja- woynmansaid,“Buffalobelonghere,aslongashedoesn’tdo too much damage, he can stay.”The issue of Jawoyn appraisals that buffalo are causing“too much damage” is complex. Older Jawoyn people who remembered when “big mobs” of buffalo roamedthroughout the region warn against the environmentaland human health issues associated with “big mobs” of buffalo. They recall that trampling from “cheeky” buffalosilted waterholes, “rubbished” some important swampsand jungles on the floodplains, and caused people to suf-fer from “buffalo belly” after drinking silted spring water. Jawoyn who had visited areas of their country on “park business” also noted that “a few” buffalo can cause sig-nificant gully erosion and damage to significant culturalsites, for example by rubbing against rock art. Jawoyn elders noted that the combination of buffalograzing and changing fire regime has significantly alteredsome forest types, including eliminating some monsoonrainforest patches. Yet they also observed that buffalograzing suppressed dense perennial grasses that kept themargins of billabongs clear and enabled them to accessthese important hunting and fishing sites. Jawoyn arguedthat it is therefore a serious decision to “blame” buffalofor environmental or cultural damage and to initiate a bigchange such as the reduction of buffalo herds. Horses (Bush Pets)  Jawoyn elders said horses, like buffalo, “carry history” of the recent past. In addition, elders are emotionally at-tached to individual horses and particular herds. As bush “pets” horses are never eaten and many past and presenthorses are affectionately known by individual names.Horses are highly valued because of their role in “bring-ing past generations through country” and “carrying our grandfather on his back,” and they were “used to travelaround country for (buffalo and cattle industry) station work” and “country business” (such as visiting sacredsites and maintaining social, ceremonial, and economicrelationships). Jawoyn considered horses living in thepark to be the ancestors of the horses that carried their parents’ generation, which is consistent with Absrcinalconcepts of cyclical generations, whereby descendantsare also ancestors (e.g., great grandfathers are also greatgrandsons). Jawoyn people who had visited escarpment areas andtraveled along river and creek lines said they were con-cerned about the expanding population of horses en-tering the “stony country” above the escarpment andcausing significant gully erosion. Observations of dam-agecausedbyhorsesincludedspreadingweeds,overgraz-ing of native vegetation, and eroding riverbanks. Another major concern is that herds graze along the main roadsand pose a hazard to unsuspecting tourists driving on theroads. Although their close attachment has meant that Ja- woyn have a high tolerance for high densities of horsesand associated environmental impacts, elders agreed thatcontrolisnecessaryinsomeareas,suchasnearroadswith relatively high volume traffic, near weed patches, and inescarpment gullies. Even so, Jawoyn remained adamantthat control options be based on the principle that park managers should “treat horses and Jawoyn with respect.”ThreeseniorJawoynwomenpointedoutthatthisrespectshould acknowledge that “horses were here before thepark.” Selected animals and herds that live near historic Conservation Biology  Volume 19, No. 5, October 2005   Robinson et al. Co-management of Feral Animals  1389 sites and communities have been declared “no control”zones, and Jawoyn insisted that any horse control mea-sures that occur on country be done with elders’ consentand opportunities provided for their involvement in con-trol operations and monitoring.Even if Jawoyn do have the opportunity to be involvedin control programs, younger Jawoyn who are employedtoparticipateinKakadumanagementsaidtheyoftenhes-itate to visit sites and make decisions about certain areasunless they are in the company of the few senior per-sons who are knowledgeable about the significance of that place. Constraints on the frequency and comprehen-siveness of Jawoyn visits to key hunting, historic, andsacred sites have increased the importance they attach tohorses remaining present on country. Jawoyn explainedthathorses“lookaftertheplacewhileweareaway;”help“keep stories alive,” and “watch country.” A central con-cern expressed was that if a herd connected to a givenarea is eliminated, the history and care of this locationmay be threatened and “special places on country coulddie.”Jawoynbelievethatanimalancestorswhointeracted withpastgenerationsofJawoynmightalsobeshot.There was also concern that not only is widespread culling of horsesdisrespectfulbutalsostoriesassociatedwiththeseanimals could be lost as a result. Pigs (Bush Threat) In stark contrast to buffalo and horses, Jawoyn agreedthat pigs were “cheeky” animals that threaten the health of country and damage bush tucker. “Big mobs” of pigsare “everywhere” and their numbers have increased inrecent years. During a fieldtrip to a favorite harvestingsite, senior Jawoyn women explained how these animalsdid not know how to live with others in country. Pigs, they explained, “make places empty” so that other living things that rely on these areas are harmed or killed andthus attack the important connections between people,place,andresources.TheJawoynpeopleagreedthat“im-portant places” include harvesting, historic, and sacredsites, which must be visited and cared for to ensure rela-tionships between people and country. If pigs continueto “chase out” other species (including women and chil-dren),theJawoynsaidtheywouldstopvisitingtheseareasand the country would go “to rubbish.”Senior Jawoyn women showed where pigs had de-stroyedkeysiteswhereyams(   Dioscorea spp.)wereonceharvested. Pigs eat the tops of the plants where the vineconnects to the bulb, which prevents the plants fromregenerating. Pigs also caused highly conspicuous grossphysical disturbance through rooting in wetland, ripar-ian, and savanna habitats in search of food. A group of  young Jawoyn men, who regularly hunt in the region,pointed out that “pigs know where to go for good coun-try for tucker.” During their travels they often encounter good waterholes that are “flogged out” by pig rooting.Remnants of dead long-necked turtles eaten by pigs arealso occasionally seen, and they have noticed that fewer  wildlifearefoundinareaswhere“bigmobs”ofpigsexist.In some places, pig damage varies seasonally. Largegroups are often found concentrated around remainingspringsandwaterholesonthefloodplainattheendofthedry season. Pigs systematically dig up rainforest patchesduringandafterthewetseasonwhilethegroundismoistand when the yams are growing. Jawoyn also identifiedsignificantpigdamageattouristsitesthatareopenduringthe dry season and located near jungles, waterholes, andfloodplains.AsaseniorJawoynmanemphasized,tourists visitthesesitesto“lookandlearnaboutcountry.”Tourists viewing pigs and pig damage are “sent the wrong mes-sage” at sites that are meant to represent various aspectsof healthy country and proper care.In other areas, pig damage is not directly related topopulation density. One pig can make a “big mess” insensitive areas that have been identified as yam harvest-ing sites, rainforests, tourist localities, and water holes. Jawoyn also identified  Mimosa pigra  weed patches askey areas where a few pigs could cause significant dam-age.Theysaidpigsdigaroundweedsand  Mimosa seedisdistributedandtransportedtootherareasbypigs“caked”in seed-infested mud. It is in these areas, Jawoyn agreed,that control of pig damage needs to be focused. Jawoynhaveconsideredseveralpigcontroloptions,in-cluding aerial shooting and harvesting pigs for food anddog meat. As with any other pest species, Jawoyn areuncomfortable with shooting pigs if they will be wastedandarekeentoexploreotheroptionsbeforethisactionistaken. This includes the option of hunting pigs for meat,butJawoynmenwhoregularlyhuntwildlifenotethatpigsare small and hard to hunt. The threat of disease, fear of being attacked, and abundance of better game have alsoreduced the value of this animal as a food source. Har- vesting pigs to sell the meat at market is another optionbeing explored, but variable markets, costs to ensure op-erations maintain safety of staff and protect values of thepark, and the likelihood that operators will avoid areas where populations are remote or densities low pose sig-nificant challenges. Discussion Recent discussions related to feral species managementemphasize the importance of understanding westernscientific principles and value judgments when devel-oping risk-analysis protocols for nonindigenous species(e.g., Lodge & Shrader-Frechette 2003; Donlan & Martin2004). We add to this debate by showing why indigenous world views are also important in ensuring that manage-ment efforts reduce the damage caused by feral animalsin such cross-cultural situations. Our results showed that Jawoyn do not evaluate introduced buffalo, horse, and Conservation Biology  Volume 19, No. 5, October 2005
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