Kakadu National Park By Erin Cooper

Place & space

Kakadu national park is located in the Northern Territory, 240km east of Darwin. It covers around 20, 000 square kilometres. It has many different landscapes, as it extends from the coast in the north full of flood plains and lowlands through to stone country in the south, full of rocky ridges and hills. Kakadu was declared a national park between 1979 and 1991. Most of the park was formed when it was below sea level. The Arnhemland plateau forms the eastern side of the park. It is a 300m escarpment and it was formed from from sandstone and quartz that was laid down over 1800 million years ago in a shallow sea. Erosion has carved out many waterfalls, rivers and gorges. The freshwater wetlands in the park were also formed from low seas 6000 years ago. After the last ice age, the seas rose by 140 metres, creating massive mangrove patches. Eventually, the sea receded and left the low lying land we see today.

Kakadu National Park Maps and Location - https://goo.gl/images/Lt5wdK, https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/map/kakadu.html, https://goo.gl/images/Ehd9Ki.

Aboriginal Heritage

To Indigenous Australians, this region is very important, as clans still live in the area. There is many sites of aboriginal art all over the park, which proves that the aboriginals were there tens of thousands of years ago. One of the most important and famous sites of rock art is Nourlangie Rock, which looks over the Koongarra area. This area was added to the park recently to prevent it from mining. To the Australian community in general, Kakadu is a national park that preserves the land, plants, animals and the indigenous history of Australia. Many tourist come to the park and explore it, there are many tours and other activities to do there.

Some Rock Art From Kakadu - https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/people/rock-art.html

There is many stories from the indigenous people living in Kakadu of how the park and its surroundings. Two major stories are The Creation Time and The Rainbow Serpent. The Creation Time story tells us that during the Creation there were people known as the Creation Ancestors. They left tracks called Dreaming Tracks as they trekked across the landscape. "All things in the landscape were left by the Creation Ancestors. They taught Aboriginal people how to live with the land. From then on Aboriginal people became keepers of their country." -Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre. There were many different Creation Ancestors, below is a picture of Namarrgon, who is responsible for the lightning storms. He has axes hanging from his body that he strikes the clouds with, creating lightning. The Rainbow Serpent is a story of a massive snake that travelled all over Australia, leaving landscapes such as rivers and mountain ranges in her wake. The aboriginals believe that she is still around today, resting and never should be disturbed. In the north of the park she is known to the aborigines as "almudj", and in the south "bolung".

The Rainbow Serpent and painting of Namarrgon - https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/people/stories.html

Environment

Kakadu National Park is home to many diverse plant and animal species. There are about 2, 000 different plant species in the park and many rare animals that some are found nowhere else in the world. Kakadu also has many different landscapes because some parts of the park are near the sea, so there are lots of lowlands and wetlands. It also has some very rocky and dry landscapes as it stretches out to the inner desert part of the Northern Territory.

Plants

The speargrasses in Kakadu are famous for their height. It's flower spikes can grow up to four metres high and it is named for its spear tipped seeds. It mainly grows in Kakadu's lowlands during the tropical summer, (February to March). The grass helps many animals in the park during this time, the ants and other insects harvest the seeds and small birds such as finches feed on the seed as well. Around April each year strong winds come by and knock the grass flat, and now the winds are known as 'knock em down storms'.

Some Speargrass in the Park - https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/people/plants-and-animals.html

The Kapok Bush is a small tree is another plant that grows in the national park and goes through a cycle that produces many things used by the aboriginals. As the plant looses its leaves during the dry season, a beautiful yellow flower grows, which the aboriginals eat raw or cooked. The flower then turns into a green capsule, hardens and turns brown. Eventually the capsule splits open and a fluffy, wool like material comes out (kapok), with the seeds of the bush attached. Kapok is used for ceremonial body decorations for the aboriginals and the bark can be turned into string and paint brushes. In the wet season, the plant grows long stalks and small fluffy leaves. The roots of a young plant can be eaten between September and December.

Kapok Bush - https://goo.gl/images/SrSmGg, https://goo.gl/images/9CFCxW, https://goo.gl/images/buRkqo, https://goo.gl/images/NbcsOV

The Darwin Woollybutt is a very common Eucalyptus tree in Kakadu and it helps aboriginals a lot. They use it as a calendar tree, to determine the time of year and season. For example, the Woollybutt grows bright orange flowers at the beginning of the cold dry season, (May to June). This bright orange tells aboriginals that it is the time to light fires to clean up the country and prevent the raging bushfires later on in the season.

Woollybutt - https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/people/plants-and-animals.html, https://goo.gl/images/2NsQ5t

Animals

The northern quoll is a native mammal to Kakadu, but the species hasn't been thriving lately because of feral dogs and cats but mostly cane toads. The park has recruited some scientists who are working to help the quolls from becoming extinct. They have started teaching the quolls to be 'toad smart', meaning that they teach the quolls not to eat the cane toads. Then the quolls are realeased back into the wild and eventually the mothers will teach their babies not to eat the toads and eventually it will stop happening.

Northern Quolls - https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/people/plants-and-animals.html, https://goo.gl/images/cFwxOe, https://goo.gl/images/fQKE5H.

The Partridge Pidgeon is found nowhere else in the world, apart from the upper part of the Northern Territory. For the local aboriginal people, it is an indicator of seasons and traditional burning systems. The pigeon grows to about 25-28cm and has red and white skin around its eye. It's feathers are a gray-ish brown with white through it. The partridge pigeon is listed as a vulnerable species.

Partridge Pigeons - https://goo.gl/images/jNt6U4, https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/people/plants-and-animals.html.

There is a very colourful grasshopper that lives in Kakadu National Park and it's called the Leichhardt's Grasshopper. It is only found in three places in the world, and Kakadu is one of them. Leichhardt is the name of the explorer, Ludwig Leichhardt, who traveled through the park in 1845 and reported large numbers of the grasshoppers. In Kakadu, it is a sign of changing seasons, the grasshopper comes out with the first rains of the monsoon season, around December and January each year.

Leichhardt's Grasshopper - https://goo.gl/images/3EiwCa, https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/people/plants-and-animals.html.

Landscapes

Coast and tidal flats line the coast of Kakadu, full of mangrove forests. There are a few estuaries dotted throughout this coastland, as well as beaches. Inland, these tidal flats are filled up with mangrove swamps and samphire flats. In some places, freshwater springs occur along the river banks, forming small patches of monsoon forests.

The Coast and Tidal Flats of northern Kakadu - https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/people/landscapes.html

The Stone Country in Kakadu is a very dry place, overlooking the lowlands and wetlands. One feature of this landscapes is the Arnhem Land Plateau, made of sandstone cliffs towering 300m above the land below. Other features are the Ubirr and Noarlungie plateaus. These plateaus both have impressive views of the wetlands and lowlands that lie below. The top of the plateau is harsh as water drains away quickly and there is not much soil. Deep gorges along the escarpment are the home of monsoon forests that are a refuge for animals in the dry season.

Stone Country in Kakadu - https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/people/landscapes.html

The Savanna Woodlands or the Lowlands of Kakadu make up nearly 80% of the park. Many animals have made a home of this part of the park, among the eucalyptus trees and tall grasses. Along the creeks and rivers there are many different types of birds, common are honeyeaters and parrots but there is also the blue winged kookaburra and different types of owls. Wallabies and Kangaroos are seen through the grass as well as dingoes. The Gould's Goanna was common, but now because of the cane toads it is rarely seen. The most famous feature of the lowlands in the gigantic termite mounds, which stand up to six metres high. They are made of mud and termite salavia, and somewhere between the hardness of baked pottery and concrete. There are also many walks through the lowlands.

Lowlands and Termite Mound - https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/people/landscapes.html.

Kakadu also has wetlands that are home to many birds. There are some areas of wetlands that do not dry up at all, Yellow Water and Mamukala are a few of these places. The surrounding floodplains are dry for most of the year, except for when the monsoon season comes and they flood. Paperbark forests surround the floodplains and make a good home for lots of birds such as the Jabiru and the Green Pygmy Goose. The wetlands are visited each tropical summer by migratory birds from all over the world. As the floodplains dry up at the end of the year, Northern Snake-Necked turtles bury themselves in the mud. A larger type of turtle, called the pig-nosed turtle, was only found because of some aboriginal rock paintings that revealed that the turtle does live in the area.

Wetlands and Floodplains of Kakadu - https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/people/landscapes.html

The final landscape of Kakadu is the southern hills and ridges, which is in the southern end of the park. They are rugged areas of ancient volcanic rock that are separated by areas of woodland. In this area grows a beautiful tree called the salmon gum that sheds its white bark to reveal a bright salmon coloured bark underneath. In this area there is a few endangered species of animals such as the Gouldian Finch and the Red Goshawk.

The southern hills and ridges landscape of Kakadu - https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/people/landscapes.html

Seasons

In Northern Australia, there is a tropical summer (November to March) and a dry season (April to October). In Kakadu there is six seasons that are based on thousands of years of aboriginal knowledge. Things that symbolise the change of season in the natural environment are plants in flower, abundant bush foods, animals behaviour and of course the actual weather.

Gudjewg - Monsoon Season December to March 24°C to 34°C. This is a tropical summer full of thunderstorms and lots of rain that causes flooding. The heat and humidity is very high, boosting the plant and animal life.

Gudjewg in Kakadu - http://www.kakadutourism.com/seasons/

Banggerreng - Knock em Down Storm Season April 23°C to 34°C. At the start of this season, the rain clouds disappear and there are clear skies again. All the floodwater from the Gudjewg season runs away and the rivers and creeks run with clear water. Many plants fruit and the young of animals thrive. Strong winds come and knock down the speargrass.

Banggerreng in Kakadu - http://www.kakadutourism.com/seasons/

Yegge - Cool but Humid Season May to mid-June 21°C to 33°C. Shallow water in the wetlands is carpeted with water lilies and in the morning mist hangs over the water. The Woollybutt is flowering and there are dry winds about, telling the local aboriginals to start burning the clean up fires.

Yegge in Kakadu - https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/people/seasons.html

Wurreng - Cold Weather Season mid-June to mid-August 17°C to 32°C. Most creeks stop flowing and the wetlands dry out water birds such as the Magpie Geese crowd the wetlands as they shrink. The burning continues from yegge, birds of prey patrol the fires watching for insects and small animals escaping the flames. The fires are extinguished at night due to the dew.

Wurreng in Kakadu- https://goo.gl/images/3YvtLP

Gurrung- Hot Dry Season mid-August to mid-October 23°C to 37°C. Aboriginal people hunt the file snake and the long necked turtle while sea turtles lay their eggs in the beaches and goannas rob their nests. White breasted wood swallows arrive in massive numbers, for the end of Gurrung and the start of Gunumeleng.

Gurrung in Kakadu - http://www.kakadutourism.com/seasons/

Gunumeleng - Pre Monsoon Season mid October to late December 24°C to 37°C. The hot weather becomes more and more humid as thunderstorms come soaking the dry land and bringing the green back. The water runs in creeks again, taking with it acidic water killing the fish. Water birds spread out as the wetlands grow and barramundi move from waterholes to estuaries. Traditionally the time for aboriginals to move to the stone country, to be protected from the storms.

Gunumeleng in Kakadu - http://www.kakadutourism.com/seasons/

Average Temperature and Rainfall Graphs

Average Temperatures in Kakadu - Created with ChartBuilder info from https://www.yr.no/place/australia/Northern_Territory/Kakadu_National_Park/statistics.html
Average Temperatures in Kakadu - Created with ChartBuilder info from https://www.yr.no/place/australia/Northern_Territory/Kakadu_National_Park/statistics.html
Kakadu Weather - https://sites.duke.edu/dukeinaustralia2016/files/2016/05/Kakadu-Annual-Temperatures.jpg

Interconnection

Tourism has a big affect on Kakadu, it provides the park with money to support animals and plants in the park from danger. Tourism can do many good things for a place, but people also litter and don't take care of the place they are in. Kakadu National Park has adapted to suit tourists, providing walking tracks, camping areas with toilets, viewing platforms, boat ramps and there is even a small airport in Jabiru. With so many visitors to the park, there needs to be a lot of staff on hand to help out. The rangers in the park work hard maintaining the facilities for visitors and just helping visitors uses up about a third of the staff and financial resources. The park also has to be safe for visitors, putting up signs to warn tourists of crocodiles for example, while cleaning up the litter left behind. There are many more issues that tourists cause to a natural place such as a national park that need to be seen to all over the world. Many of the parks' rangers are aboriginal and want to care for the land they live on as well as some of the native tribes that live on the land.

Tourism in Kakadu - https://goo.gl/images/gfMMs4, https://goo.gl/images/32aK6s, https://parksaustralia.gov.au/kakadu/people/history.html, https://goo.gl/images/YGjWLJ, https://wildfell2011-5l-kakadu.wikispaces.com/Threats+to+Kakadu+National+Park.

Some other threats on Kakadu are natural such as introduced animals like the cane toads, wild pig and water buffalo. Cane toads are one of the worst threats on the park, killing and harming animals that dare to try and eat it. There are also a lot of weeds growing through the park, killing some of the native plants that grow there. The weeds don't just affect the plants but the animals that eat the plants. Some birds in the park eat berries from trees that are diminishing from a weed called Para Grass.

Natural Threats to Kakadu - https://wildfell2011-5l-kakadu.wikispaces.com/Threats+to+Kakadu+National+Park

Some parts of Kakadu were made parts of the park to protect the area from mining. There is a lot of mining in the area and this affects the land. For instance, when the monsoon season comes contaminated water flows down the streams and into the wetlands, sometimes poisoning animals and plants in the process. The mines mainly search for gold and uranium, and the aboriginal people are fearful of radiation in their food and water. Global Warming is also predicted to have an affect on the park, more rain means more contamination from the mines.

A Uranium Mine in Kakadu - https://goo.gl/images/qSDZEf,

Sustainability, Scale and Change

There have been many arguments about the mining in and near Kakadu, and it affects the cultural and natural heritage of the park. Some parts of the park have been established in recent years to protect the endangered plant and animal life. I think that mines should not be alowed within a certain distance of the park, because even if a mine is not in the park, it can still affect it through the rivers and streams. In the future if this issue is not addressed properly, there could be no Kakadu National Park anymore because it could have all been dug up from mining. Kakadu has been challenged over time due to the mining and uranium, and there were arguments a few years ago in 2011 about World Heritage extending Kakadu National Park into the land that some nuclear energy companies wanted to mine for uranium on.

People Protesting Agaist Mining in Kakadu - https://goo.gl/images/OfAIQU

Management

Kakadu has always been the land of the Bininji and Mungguy tribes, and it always will be. One of the most important aspects of Kakadu and it being a national park is the aboriginal heritage it has. The tribes' people care for the land along with the parks staff, mainly rangers, and many people from the tribes and other aboriginals are rangers that care for the land and its visitors. Kakadu National Park Board of Management decide on many things that help the park and its visitors. Kakadu is one of the World Heritage areas and the local tribes are welcome to stay in future generations and learn about their heritage and respect everyone that enters the park. One of the guiding principles for the park is that everyone that works in the park learns from, understands and respects each other. Below is the full management of Kakadu for the next few years that the Kakadu National Park Board of Management decided on.

Management of Kakadu - https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/1f88c5a3-409c-4ed9-9129-ea0aaddd4f33/files/kakadu-management-plan-2016-2026.pdf

Click below to be directed to the Kakadu National Park Board of Management.

In the future, Kakadu will be subjected to flooding, due to Global Warming making it rain more in the monsoon season. So in many years from now, Kakadu may end up drowning and even being poisoned from the uranium mines. In Kakadu a few years ago when there was the argument about uranium mining, they managed to cover of the radioactive uranium holes, some in the heart of Kakadu, Ranger and Jabiluka. Land has also been turned back to the traditional owners of the land, that mining companies has bought and planned to destroy.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Kakadu is a big national park full of life and aboriginal heritage. The land is being cared for by park rangers and aboriginal tribespeople, but some matters cannot be helped, Global Warming will have a massive inpact on the park in future years. Others matters though can be helped, just like rangers and scientists pairing up to help save the Quolls from Cane Toads. Many changes are occurring and the mining industry and the pollution from the uranium mines will also be a threat in the future.

For more information on Kakadu, click the link below.

Bibliography

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