Australia is the continent with the highest rate of mammal extinction in the world. Since Europeans first arrived on the southern continent in the late 18th century, a total of 10% of primitive species have become extinct.
There are many reasons for this, but perhaps the most important is the impact of Europeans deliberately or unintentionally releasing animals into the previously isolated Australian landscape.
Rabbits, pigs, donkeys, camels and goats all have a major impact on the landscape and its wildlife, but the most harmful to date are carnivores, especially red foxes and domestic cats, which kill millions of native animals every year.
However, there are still relatively small numbers of carnivores introduced in some areas of Australia, and it is in one of these areas that the pioneering conservation partnership has had a positive impact.
In northwestern Australia, Dambimangari Country, home to the saltwater people of Worrorra (Dambimangari), stretches spectacularly along the Kimberley Coast.
The rugged and anatomical sandstone mountains form a complex landscape where it is difficult for invasive predators to move around and hunt. This helped it become part of the Kimberley region of the Australian continent, which has not suffered from mammalian extinctions since it settled in Europe.
“The Dambimangari country feels special,” said Larissa Porter, a senior field ecologist with the Australian Wildlife Conservation Society (AWC), a non-profit organization whose mission is to effectively protect all native animal species and their habitats.
“This is a breathtakingly beautiful area and one of the few unspoiled coastlines in the world.” Here, ancient sandstone cliffs rise above the golden sands and the turquoise waters of numerous bays, coral reefs and entrances. , These bays, coral reefs and entrances form the characteristics of the coast.
The terrestrial and marine environments are highly diverse, supporting a range of habitats, from waterways lined with tall paper-bark tree corridors, to open prairie woodlands with Australian eucalyptus trees, and tropical rainforest plants that are full of fruit.
These are home to a series of endangered and endemic species such as northern kangaroos, golden kangaroos, scale-tailed possums and Nabarek kangaroos, an elusive species that lives between the boulders and gravel slopes of coastal sandstone mountains Small rock kangaroo.
Dambimangari Country includes more than 720 islands, which are important refuges for species threatened on the mainland.
AWC manages more than 16 million acres of wilderness in Australia, most of which are located in predator-proof fences, allowing wildlife to live without the relentless pressure of introducing predators.
In 2001, AWC first started work in Kimberley, developing a carefully managed network of wildlife sanctuaries. In 2018, AWC was invited to establish a groundbreaking partnership with Dambimangari Aboriginal Corporation, an organization representing Dambimangari people.
For more than 60,000 years, even long before Europeans knew that Australia existed, Danbymangarians lived in what we now call Kimberley.
However, like many traditional owners, they were expelled from their country during European settlement, and for more than 100 years, they will not be under their direct custody.
This situation began to change in 1998, when the Danby Mangari submitted a declaration of indigenous ownership in their country.
Native Title Claim is a legal procedure in Australia that recognizes the rights and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in land and water based on their traditional laws and customs. The claim took 13 years to resolve, but in 2011, the Damimangari people finally obtained custody of approximately 10,000 square miles of land and coastline.
The Dambimangari Indigenous Company (DAC) was established to manage the interests of traditional owners. This includes the development of the Dambimangari Health National Plan, which is an overall strategy for management and development initiatives aimed at creating an environmentally sustainable future for the region and its people, constructed in a culturally appropriate environment.
The partnership between DAC and AWC combines thousands of years of traditional knowledge with the latest knowledge of Western conservation science to provide conservation results.
The DAC-AWC partnership plan is driven by the goals of the Damimangari National Health Plan and the protection goals of AWC. Currently, the two organizations are cooperating to help manage 800,000 hectares of land in the Damimangari country and have proven to be beneficial to both parties.
“The Dambimangari and the rangers know their country,” Larissa continued. “For field investigations, they provide critical logistical support and expertise.”
But for this partnership, in addition to the actual understanding of the terrain, there are some more basic things. “We started working with people whose culture has existed for tens of thousands of years. While experiencing this place with them and understanding it, AWC gained a two-way perspective on conservation. We understand how the Danby Mangari see, care and understand them s country.”
For its part, AWC provides assistance and expertise in controlling introduced species.
“The number of wild boars in the landscape is increasing,” said Josh Vartto, DAC’s ranger coordinator.
“There is no doubt that they are causing damage to the sensitive ecosystem in the Damimangari region, from pollution and erosion in the riparian area, to the massive grazing and soil compaction in the already fragile tropical rain forest area. If there is no such thing as AWC, these boundaries can be crossed. With the help of the organization, we really have no chance to control wildlife.”
The partnership has witnessed the prosperity of this important region and the species that live on it. To date, the partnership has identified 195 species, including 111 species of birds, 28 species of mammals, 41 species of reptiles, and 15 species of frogs, many of which are scarce in other parts of Australia. In fact, some species, including northern quolls, golden quolls, and Nabalek, are on the brink of extinction globally.
Inspired by the success of the cooperation model with DAC, AWC established another partnership with Wilinggin Indigenous Company in 2019.
This ambitious partnership involves scientific and land management activities on 1.73 million hectares of land northwest of Kimberley, strengthening the protection of a range of threatened species, while generating sustainable income and providing for traditional owners of Ngarinyin (Wilinggin) Social and economic benefits.
Protecting endangered species is a key global issue, but equally important is how we respond to the impact of colonization on indigenous peoples. The success of the partnership in the northernmost part of Australia in protecting endangered species shows how powerful cooperation can be.