The Territory is renowned for its big rivers full of barramundi and crocodiles, its vast deserts and woodlands that are home to unique and amazing wildlife, and its shallow seas are a refuge for dugong and sea turtles. Healthy coasts, rivers and natural landscapes are central to the NT way of life, our culture and our livelihoods.
But the Territory’s wildlife and habitats face rising pressures, and need your help.
Habitat loss is primary driver of wildlife destruction. On the land this is caused by weeds, wildfire, feral animals, land clearing and over-grazing by cattle. The extinction crisis sweeping small and medium sized mammals is likely due to both habitat loss and degradation, as well as predation by cats and impacts from cane toads.
The Territory sorely needs a network of protected areas across the land and river catchments that effectively conserves wildlife and habitat, supports the conservation economy, provides jobs to Indigenous Rangers, and stores carbon. Just 3.5% of the Territory is in National Parks and other reserves managed by the Territory Parks and Wildlife Service.
Effective on-ground management and strong partnerships have improved landscape management and turned around the loss of some species. For example, a gradual recovery of Gouldian finch populations is happening through better management of fire and exclusion of cattle from feeding areas. Millions of hectares of vegetation that was previously burned every year or two by hot wildfires is now being managed through cool-season burns to reinstate vegetation mosaics with differing fire histories. The removal of cattle and feral herbivores such as camels, donkeys or horses from riverbanks, springs and wetlands has cut erosion and helped wildlife to return and thrive.
In the marine environment, habitats and wildlife are damaged by bottom trawling, sewage and port pollution, agricultural run-off, ghost nets, and over-fishing by recreational anglers close to Darwin. But new threats are rapidly emerging, such as the risk of oil spills from rigs in the Arafura and Timor Seas, seabed mining and a new port and heavy industry near on Maria Island in Limmen Bight.
That’s why we’re seeking a science-based network of marine parks, stronger action to cut sewage and port pollution, and a ban on seabed mining.
Despite the efforts of many landholders and agencies, many of our amazing waterways and wetlands are infested with aquatic weeds such as mimosa and para grass. Buffalo, pigs, camels and feral horses erode and pollute them as well. Top End rivers, which are almost completely free of introduced fish, are now at risk from tilapia, an exotic fish from Africa.
The development of large scale irrigation threatens some rivers, particularly the Daly, upper Roper and Keep Rivers, and there are long standing plans to dam the Adelaide River for a new water supply for greater Darwin. Plans by the federal Coalition to make the north the foodbowl of Asia add to these pressures.
Environment Centre NT has been at the forefront of standing up for NT nature. We are campaigning for:
Aboriginal people have actively managed land using traditional knowledge developed over millennia. Traditional knowledge, connection to country and understanding of how landscapes work and respond to change must be incorporated into any development and management decisions.
In the following documentary, Sugarbag Blues looks at changes on country along the coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia. Indigenous owner of the 800 square miles 'Seven Emu' Pastoral Station, Frank Shadforth, believes changes in the declining pollination of bush flora is principally due to the decimation of native sting-less bees. Have a listen to his story here.