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Keywords:

  • arid zone;
  • conservation management;
  • cultural issues and solutions;
  • exotic species;
  • Indigenous land management;
  • integrating theory and practice;
  • relationship with nature

Summary  Recently, the value of incorporating Indigenous ecological knowledge approaches in natural resource management has been increasingly recognised. In arid zone, Australia scientific interest in Indigenous ecological knowledge has tended to focus on native plants and animals and on customary ways of looking after country that Aboriginal people have developed over thousands of years of engagement with their environment. Far less attention has been paid to how Aboriginal perceptions of introduced species inform their ecological knowledge and land management practices. This study argues that it is important to take account of Aboriginal understandings of introduced species in addition to native species if a more sustainable approach to natural resource management is to occur across Australia. It draws on a recent cross-cultural and interdisciplinary research project conducted for the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre on feral camels in central Australia. In discussing how culture shapes Aboriginal people’s views on introduced species, we attend to the complexities of Aboriginal interactions with introduced species through time and space. In doing so, we move beyond simple categorisations of introduced animals as ‘belonging’ or ‘not belonging’ to a more nuanced appreciation of how context may influence shifts in perspectives and result in more flexible positions on management options. Finally, we discuss the need to incorporate both Aboriginal and Western scientific understandings concerning feral animals in developing strategies to manage the negative impacts of the animals.