The Wardaman: Looking after Country

Date: Mar 14, 2018

Subject: Caring for Country

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Birds are closely connected to Wardaman culture. Many Wardaman dances have been adapted from bird movements and much Wardaman rock art depicts birds.

Wardaman believe that birds “sing their country” and protecting them is important because they are so closely linked to culture and history. One special case is the endangered Gouldian Finch (Erythrura gouldiae) whose populations have decreased with the advent of cattle industries and modern burning practices on the northern savannahs.

Following finch sightings in a general biodiversity survey in September 2015 on the Wardaman IPA, Wardaman rangers are developing a Gouldian Finch Recovery Program with support from Territory NRM.

The first aim of this program was to establish the size of the finch population and their locations on the IPA. In the late dry season of 2016, between September and October, Wardaman rangers conducted waterhole monitoring at five locations on the IPA and detected flocks at several locations.

The second aim of the program was to locate nesting areas of the finch. Between the April-June 2017 nesting season, Wardaman rangers surveyed several locations. To attract Gouldian Finches in their nesting habitat, rangers adopted a modern technique. They broadcast recorded Gouldian mating calls from special purpose software through portable high-powered wireless speakers.

Protection of finch habitat from frequent fire is one vital strategy in the Gouldian Finch recovery program. The information gathered from these surveys helped identify and quarantine finch habitat for the first time in fire management plans in aerial and ground burning activities in April-May 2017.

This work has also allowed the Wardaman rangers to further develop their skills in biodiversity field surveys since their September 2015 survey. Recently, the Wardaman rangers attended the Barrapunta birds forum to demonstrate their new found skills and exchange information with their peers.