Evaluating the status of species using Indigenous knowledge: Novel evidence for major native mammal declines in northern Australia

Mark Ziembicki, John Casimir Zichy-Woinarski, Brendan Mackey

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    A small series of recent monitoring studies has reported major declines for many native mammal species in localised regions in northern Australia. However, the broader spatial context of these studies is uncertain. This study aims to assess the extent and timing of change in mammal status across a broad area of northern Australia (the monsoonal tropics of the Northern Territory). Indigenous information about terrestrial native mammal fauna (excluding bats) was compiled from a large series of interviews conducted across Indigenous communities. A collection of mammal skins was used to help facilitate discussions and verify identifications. The resulting information was analysed with non-parametric statistics to test for changes in mammal status across different time periods, between different regions, and between different groups of mammal species. Declines were reported as extending from the earliest memory of Indigenous participants, but the rate of decline has increased recently. These changes were reported across all five regions within the broad study area and were greater for " critical weight range" species than for other species. Indigenous participants suggested several factors were associated with the changing status of species. The study's results reveal a pattern of widespread decline in the mammal fauna of the monsoonal tropics of northern Australia, thereby corroborating the conclusions of recent more local wildlife monitoring studies. The study also demonstrates the value and capability of Indigenous ecological knowledge to complement and corroborate more intensive and local scientific studies. The results reinforce concern for the conservation status of the mammal fauna of northern Australia.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)78-92
    Number of pages15
    JournalBiological Conservation
    Volume157
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013

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