Incorporating Aboriginal people’s perceptions of introduced animals in resource management: insights from the feral camel project

Authors

  • Petronella Vaarzon-Morel,

    1. Petronella Vaarzon-Morel is an Independent Anthropologist (PO Box 3561, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia; Email: pvmorel@bigpond.com). Dr Glenn Edwards is Director, Wildlife Use, Biodiversity Conservation, Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport (PO Box 1120, Alice Springs NT 0871, Australia; Email: Glenn.Edwards@nt.gov.au). This research was part of an integrated research programme with the overarching aim of developing a national management framework, which will lead to a reduction in camel numbers to a level that reverses their current population growth trajectory and reduces their impacts. The research was undertaken through collaboration between the researchers and different stakeholder groups, including Aboriginal organisations and communities, individual pastoralists and conservation land managers based in a range of jurisdictions.
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  • Glenn Edwards

    1. Petronella Vaarzon-Morel is an Independent Anthropologist (PO Box 3561, Alice Springs, NT 0871, Australia; Email: pvmorel@bigpond.com). Dr Glenn Edwards is Director, Wildlife Use, Biodiversity Conservation, Department of Natural Resources, Environment, the Arts and Sport (PO Box 1120, Alice Springs NT 0871, Australia; Email: Glenn.Edwards@nt.gov.au). This research was part of an integrated research programme with the overarching aim of developing a national management framework, which will lead to a reduction in camel numbers to a level that reverses their current population growth trajectory and reduces their impacts. The research was undertaken through collaboration between the researchers and different stakeholder groups, including Aboriginal organisations and communities, individual pastoralists and conservation land managers based in a range of jurisdictions.
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Abstract

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.

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