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Saving the outback

  • Written by  Geographical
  • Published in Nature
Saving the outback Annette Ruzicka
03 May
2018
Faced with protecting a country more than 30 times the size of the United Kingdom, Australian conservation organisation Bush Heritage is partnering with Aboriginal people and other landowners to return the bush to good health

As one of Australia’s largest not-for-profit conservation organisations, Bush Heritage has made it a mission to protect the country’s landscapes that are at most risk, restoring and managing land in order to safeguard the plants, wildlife and people that rely on it.

Working alongside Aboriginal partners is key to the success of the organisation’s operations, utilising indigenous knowledge that has been passed down through generations of the people that know the land the best. Since its creation in 1991, Bush Heritage has been able to help protect over eight million hectares of land. But its mission is far from over and to help raise awareness of the issues it faces, a photographic exhibition is running at the RGS-IBG until Friday 4 May.

Birriliburu Western Australia Bush Heritage Australia Photo credit Annette Ruzicka

Birriliburu Western Australia (Image: Annette Ruzicka)

In recent decades, vast tracts of Australia have been legally returned to the Traditional Owners of the land, such as the Birriliburu Indigenous Protected Area, which covers 6.6 million hectares of ecologically and culturally significant country.

 Spinifex hop mouse Bush Heritage Cravens Peak Reserve Photo Jiri Lochman

Spinifex Hopping-mouse (Image: Jiri Lochman/Lochman Transparencies)

Paul Bunbuynu ranger Arafura Swamp Northern Territory Australia Photo credit Bush Heritage Australia photographer

Paul Bunbuynu, ranger, (Image: Daniel Hartley-Allen)

Traditional Indigenous knowledge is vital to protecting the Arafura Swamp. Two-way science is the practice of combining this knowledge with Western science to combat threats such as invasive weeds, feral animals, and damaging wildfires. Satellite mapping shows historic fire scars in the landscape, while helicopters are used for early dry-season burning.

The Arafura Swamp is 1.2million hectares of significant wetland habitat floodplains and paperbark forest Photo credit

The Arafura Swamp, Northern Territory (Image: Daniel Hartley-Allen)

The Arafura Swamp is 1.2million hectares of significant wetland habitat floodplains and paperbark forest.

Black necked stalk Arafura Swamp NT Photo by Daniel Hartley Allen

Black necked stork (Image: Daniel Hartley- Allen)

The Arafura Swamp, in northern Australia, is one of the most important waterbird sites in the country, supporting as many as 300,000 birds at any one time. It is home to Yolngu and Bi Aboriginal people, who continue to care for their land as their ancestors have for tens of thousands of years.

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Annette Dean and Dr Matt Appleby, Bush Heritage Australia (Image: Annette Ruzicka)

Bush Heritage staff work with Aboriginal groups and other landowners across Australia to protect landscapes of high conservation value. The organisation currently works across more than eight million hectares, from the sunburnt Outback, to the lush rainforests of the north and the white-sand beaches of the east coast.

Narrow nosed Planigale Carnarvon Station Reserve Photo by Rebecca Diete

Narrow-nosed Planigale (Image: Rebecca Diete)

One in five Australian mammals are today threatened with extinction, giving the country the worst mammal extinction rate of any developed nation. Targeted conservation partnerships are attempting to reverse this decline.

Sand goanna Charles Darwin Reserve Photo by Ben Parkhurst

Sand Goanna (Image: Ben Parkhurst)

Goannas are one of the many native animals benefitting from conservation partnerships. Often covered in stunning markings, they are culturally significant for many Aboriginal groups and play an important ecological role.

Edgebaston Reserve QLD Photo by Annette Ruzicka

The Milky Way over Edgbaston Reserve (Image: Annette Ruzicka)

The photographic exhibition, ‘Custodians of a sunburnt country: Conservation partnerships in the Australian Outback’ by Bush Heritage Australia will run at the RGS-IBG until Friday 4 May. Click here for more details.

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