Wildlife Matters

Care and commitment to Country

08 May. 2024
Brad Leue/AWC

 

Ngalurrjtu

By Danae Moore, AWC Acting Regional Ecologist central Australia and Steve Eldridge AWC Ngalurrtju Operations Manager

A bird’s-eye view is the only way to comprehend the immensity of the ancient desert landscape of the Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust in Central Australia. Approaching from the east, the country is a surprising oasis of vegetation and ephemeral salt lakes punctuated by Karrinyarra (Mt Wedge) that stands sentinel over dunes to the south and sparse plains to the west. Karrinyarra is the highest point on the Karrinyarra Range (Stuart Bluff Range), rising like a great spine across the property and providing high-quality habitat and hideaways for the threatened Central Australian Rock-wallaby (warru in the Pintupi/Luritja language). Simply put, it is breathtaking.

Over the past three years, the Ngalurrtju partnership – a landmark collaboration for conservation between the Central Land Council on behalf of the Traditional Owners and Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) – has made remarkable progress, building a solid foundation from which to grow.

A strong team of land management officers, ecologists, and Ngalurrtju Rangers has been established. This team implements large-scale land management and science programs across the partnership area.

 AWC is privileged to work in this two-way partnership to protect country and culture. Brad Leue/AWC
AWC is privileged to work in this two-way partnership to protect country and culture.

PUTTING NGALURRTJU ON THE MAP

In May 2023, a ‘two-way landscape mapping’ workshop was held at Ngalurrtju. This workshop produced an ongoing and interchangeable multi-purpose land management map that reflects the knowledge of Yapa and Ananagu – how Ngalia Warlpiri, Anmatyerr and Luritja Traditional Owners and local community members refer to themselves – and kardiya (white people) and will facilitate reporting, discussion, planning and decision-making at future Steering Committee meetings and for Ngalurrtju Ranger work.

This landscape map reflects 'two-way' knowledge and facilitates reporting, discussion, planning and decision-making at Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust in Central Australia. Danae Moore/AWC
This landscape map reflects ‘two-way’ knowledge and facilitates reporting, discussion, planning and decision-making at Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust in Central Australia.

Traditional and Western information is crucial for managing Ngalurrtju. The two-way landscape map captures a knowledge exchange whereby Traditional Owners are sharing significant stories and land management information from their perspective, while we’re providing geological and ecological history and Western techniques for animal monitoring and weed/land management… It’s already proving to be valuable – we have recently updated the map with our survey results from 2023, for example adding confirmed locations of threatened species, warru and tjalapa [the Pintupi/Luritja name for the Great Desert Skink] and priority weeds such as hairy-flower love grass.”
Steve Eldridge, AWC Operations Manager at Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust

BUILDING A BASE

After almost 30 years of the homestead lying vacant, significant effort has been made to refurbish the site. This work has already greatly improved the efficiency of the Ngalurrtju partnership, providing a permanent boots-on-the-ground presence critical for delivering conservation science and land management programs in such a remote region.

Priorities over the next several years include constructing a communal amenities facility to support regular Traditional Owner visitation, increased on-site collaboration, and delivering Ngalurrtju Ranger programs.

CARING FOR COUNTRY

Ngalurrtju and AWC’s adjoining Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary protect arid zone species and habitats across more than 600,000 hectares. The Newhaven and Ngalurrtju teams deliver fire management across both sanctuaries, aiming to re-establish appropriate fire regimes that conserve species and ecosystems and allow the restoration of ecological processes.

The full annual fire management program commenced at Ngalurrtju in 2023. Over the year, 183 kilometres of ground-based fuel-reduction burns were implemented, burning a total of 9,767 hectares (around 3% of the property). In addition, 522 kilometres of burn lines were lit using 24,000 aerial incendiaries, resulting in 9,511 hectares burning in the cooler months of 2023.

These efforts will continue to expand and deliver significant ecological benefits for the broader region.

SCIENCE IN CENTRAL AUSTRALIA

Given that there were very few recent comprehensive plant or animal records for Ngalurrtju, the first priority in delivering AWC’s science program has been developing a species inventory. Excitingly, 114 animal species have been confirmed at Ngalurrtju to date, including the threatened tjalapa, warru and Grey Falcon (wiinywiinypa in the Pintupi/Luritja language). Vegetation surveys have recorded around 460 plant species so far. These records will allow us to quantify the impacts of our work at Ngalurrtju over time and inform ongoing conservation priorities.

AWC's inventory surveys have confirmed the presence of the threatened Grey Falcon (wiinywiinypa in the Pintupi/Luritja language) at Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust. Brad Leue/AWC
AWC’s inventory surveys have confirmed the presence of the threatened Grey Falcon (wiinywiinypa in the Pintupi/Luritja language) at Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust.

FIGHTING FERAL ANIMALS

Traditional Owners have identified several culturally significant sites damaged by camels. Managing these large feral herbivores is a key priority in protecting Ngalurrtju’s biodiversity and cultural assets. Aerial culling is carried out in conjunction with Newhaven and other neighbouring properties.

AWC also monitors feral cat and fox activity across Ngalurrtju to identify hotspots and focus areas for management. Surveys are planned to determine rabbit distribution and identify areas of high activity to focus trapping and control efforts. The team is preparing to re-establish boundary fencing adjacent to neighbouring properties to prevent cattle movement onto Ngalurrtju.

WHERE TO NEXT

A five-year plan includes continuing to apply and assess annual burn programs, active weed management, and feral animal control. The science program will focus on establishing permanent monitoring sites, undertaking comprehensive bird surveys, and developing long-term action plans for significant species such as the tjalapa and warru. Data on the distribution and abundance of threatened animals will be collected using a combination of the ecological knowledge and expert tracking skills of Traditional Owners and contemporary scientific techniques such as live trapping and camera trapping.

AWC is privileged to work in this two-way partnership delivering critical conservation outcomes in Central Australia.

 

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