KAKADU. Kakadu Background Information

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1 Kakadu Background Information THE PARK Kakadu National Park is situated in the top part of the Northern Territory in Australia. At 19,804 square kilometres, Kakadu is Australia s largest terrestrial national park. The park is jointly managed by its Aboriginal traditional owners and the Commonwealth Government. The name Kakadu is the result of the European interpretation of a local Aboriginal flood plain language, called Gagudju. Kakadu National Park is listed as a World Heritage Area and as a UNESCO site. Kakadu is one of the few World Heritage Areas that are listed for both their natural and cultural heritage. 683,000 hectares of Kakadu wetlands are listed as RAMSAR protected wetlands of international importance. The South Alligator River is the only large river system in the world to be completely within and protected by a national park. And Kakadu is the only national park in the world to contain an entire river system catchment area. 40

2 THE HABITAT Kakadu's habitats include stone plateaus and escarpments, monsoonal rainforests, flood plains and billabongs, tidal flats, coastal beaches and more, but the vast majority of the area (80%) is covered by open savannah woodlands. Kakadu is home to over 10,000 different species of insects, over 280 bird species (one third of all of Australia's bird species), more than 120 reptile species, 26 frogs, 68 species of mammals, over 300 tidal and freshwater fish species, and more than 2000 different plant species. Some animal species in the park are rare, endangered or endemic (not found anywhere else in the world). Kakadu is considered to be one of the most weed-free conservation areas in the world Kakadu's waterways are inhabited by saltwater and freshwater crocodiles. 41

3 THE SEASONS Kakadu National Park has a tropical monsoon climate with six seasons: Wurrgeng, Gurrung, Gunumeleng, Gudjewg, Banggerreng, Yegge. Yegge, from May to mid-june, is relatively cool with low humidity. Wurrgeng, from mid-june to mid-august, is the 'cold weather' time; humidity is low, daytime temperatures are around 30 C and night-time temperatures are around 17 C. Most creeks stop flowing and the flood plains quickly dry out. Gurrung, from mid-august to mid-october, is hot and dry. Gunumeleng, from mid-october to late December is the pre-monsoon season of hot weather that becomes more and more humid. Thunderstorms build in the afternoons and showers bring green to the dry land. Maximum day temperatures often exceed 40 C and average nightly temperatures are around 25 C. Gudjewg, from late December to March, is the monsoon season. It is a time of thunderstorms, heavy rain and flooding. Banggerreng, in April, is the season when the rain clouds have dispersed and the floodwater recedes. 42

4 TRADITIONAL OWNERS The Indigenous people of Kakadu, known as Bininj/Mungguy, have lived on and cared for the land in Kakadu for more than 40,000 years. What is now known as Kakadu National Park is a culturally diverse region, home to Aboriginal people from different clans with different laws and traditions, and speaking different languages. The language Gagudju that gave Kakadu its name is no longer spoken regularly (but descendants of that language group still live in the park). Of the twelve languages that were once used in the region, only three remain in common use: Kunwinjku, Gun-djeihmi and Jawoyn. Together, Kakadu and Arnhem Land hold one of the world s greatest concentrations of rock art sites, with approximately 5,000 recorded art sites so far. A further sites are thought to exist. The paintings, estimated to range in age from 20,000 years old to the recent present, constitute one of the longest historical records of any group of people in the world. 43

5 BIODIVERSITY More then 2000 plant species have been recorded in Kakadu Kakadu contains 280 bird species, which is over one third of Australia s bird fauna Kakadu contains 68 mammal species, (almost one fifth of Australia s mammals) Kakadu contains 120 reptile species Kakadu contains 26 frog species Over 300 fish species have been recorded in tidal and freshwater areas within the Park. 44

6 INTRODUCED/FERAL ANIMALS Asian water buffalo, cattle, pigs, horses, donkeys, dogs, cats, European bees and cane toads are introduced animals present in Kakadu. Introduced animals spread weeds, increase erosion and prey on native animals. Buffalo and cattle: Buffalo and cattle are abundant in neighbouring Arnhem Land and pastoral properties, and their numbers are increasing within the Park. Pigs: Pigs cause noticeable widespread impacts around springs, floodplains and small rainforest patches. The spread of weeds such as mimosa and olive hymenachne by pigs through foraging activities is of major concern. Pigs breed rapidly, so populations can quickly re-establish following control. Horses and donkeys: Horses and donkeys cause erosion around water bodies, carry disease, and aid the spread of weeds such as mission grass, gamba grass and rattlepod. Cane toads: Cane toads reached the southern regions of Kakadu in 2001 and populations are now well established throughout the Park. Cane toads have serious impacts on some wildlife populations. Following the arrival of toads in the Park, there has been a notable decline in the numbers of quolls and goannas. Cats and dogs: There is a lack of information about the impacts and population of cats. However, cats are believed to prey on animals within all habitat types. Feral dogs interbreed with dingoes, and in some locations hybrid dingoes may come to dominate dingo populations and place increased pressure on native wildlife in the park. 45

7 WEEDS Weeds are one of the most significant threats to all habitats within the Park. They decrease food sources and habitats for animals and compete with native plants. Mission grass and gamba grass are two weeds that increase the intensity of fires. Staff use manual weed control programs, biological control techniques and regularly carry out monitoring and research to manage them. Mimosa (Mimosa pigra) - Mimosa is a Central American woody shrub that under ideal conditions grows up to 4 metres tall and is highly invasive. Unchecked, mimosa forms impenetrable thickets across floodplains. In Kakadu the threat posed by mimosa was identified early, and prompt action has meant that the park is free of large mimosa infestations. Parks Australia have adopted a zero tolerance for mimosa within Kakadu National Park. Four full-time staff use a variety of transportation (air boats, quad bikes, 4WDs) to monitor nearly 10,000 square kilometres for mimosa. Mimosa grows extremely quickly, and in ideal conditions infestations double in size every 18 months. Large Mimosa plants can produce vast amounts of seeds, up to 220,000 per year. 46

8 FIRE MANAGEMENT Before the arrival of non-aboriginal people, Bininj/Mungguy managed their country with fire. Fires were lit all year round, although mostly in the early dry season. These burning practices had the effect of promoting suitable habitats for a range of different plants and animals. Each wet season monsoonal rains prompt rapid plant growth. During the dry season the vegetation dries out and large quantities of fuel accumulate. Bininj/Mungguy and park managers work together to reduce the number of hot fires at the end of the dry season. 47

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