Find­ing com­mon ground on con­ser­va­tion

TOO OF­TEN, PEO­PLE DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY HAVE UN­TIL IT IS GONE Mac­quarie Univer­sity en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence re­searcher and 2017 Eureka prize win­ner Dr Em­i­lie Ens is work­ing with Abo­rig­i­nal Com­mu­ni­ties in Arn­hem Land to iden­tify plants, an­i­mals and places that

Cosmos - - Contents -

Ngukurr Wi Stadi Bla Kantri (We Study the Coun­try) Re­search Team is a unique col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Dr Ens, Ngandi El­der Cherry Wu­lu­mirr Daniels, the Yugul Mangi Rangers, Ngukurr School and com­mu­nity mem­bers from the re­mote Abo­rig­i­nal Com­mu­nity of Ngukurr. “We work closely with El­ders, rangers and young peo­ple to mean­ing­fully com­bine lo­cal Abo­rig­i­nal and Western sci­ence to raise aware­ness of en­vi­ron­men­tal threats in the re­mote south-east­ern Arn­hem Land re­gion,” Dr Ens says. “This ini­tia­tive is in­creas­ing Western un­der­stand­ing of re­gional bio­di­ver­sity and help­ing find com­mon ground with lo­cal peo­ple about sig­nif­i­cant plants and eco­log­i­cal com­mu­ni­ties. From there we de­velop projects and mon­i­tor­ing tools.” Dr Ens says that a lot of peo­ple have been liv­ing off Coun­try and have lost both cul­tural knowl­edge and lan­guage and don’t know how to use avail­able bush tucker or medic­i­nal plants. “For ex­am­ple, cheeky yams Diosco­ria bulb­ifera, need to be cooked, then any resid­ual tox­ins leached out by plac­ing them in run­ning wa­ter for five days be­fore be­ing eaten. “This cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant plant is un­der threat from wild pigs,” says Dr Ens. “If we can get peo­ple to think about how a sig­nif­i­cant plant is be­ing im­pacted, they also start to think about wider threats to Coun­try posed by the pigs and may then wel­come feral an­i­mal con­trol mea­sures.” The Ngukurr Com­mu­nity is also now help­ing save a newly dis­cov­ered pop­u­la­tion of Le­ich­hardt’s grasshop­per. The strik­ingly coloured, near-threat­ened species eats a sin­gle species of mint ( Pi­ty­ro­dia) that is threat­ened by cur­rent fire regimes. “The grasshop­per is cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant for the Nandi peo­ple, and rangers are now look­ing more closely at how they burn the re­mote area where these grasshop­pers live.”

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