, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 155-164
Date: 03 Dec 2010

Turning Pests into Profits: Introduced Buffalo Provide Multiple Benefits to Indigenous People of Northern Australia

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Abstract

Introduced species are a major driver of negative ecological change, but some introduced species can potentially offer positive benefits to society. Asian swamp buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) were introduced to the northern Australian mainland in 1827 and have since become a serious pest. However, buffalo have also supported various profitable industries, including harvesting for hides, meat, and live export. We investigate an indigenous wildlife-based enterprise that harvests wild buffalo from indigenous-held lands in remote northern Australia. We used ecological modelling and social research techniques to quantify the buffalo dynamics and to examine their contributions to sustainable livelihoods in a remote Aboriginal community. Results suggest that the current harvest rate will not drive the species to extinction and it is thus unlikely that the population size of buffalo will be reduced enough to alleviate ecological damage. This enterprise is profitable and provides regular royalty payments to traditional land owners and wage income for employees, along with several additional non-financial capital assets. We demonstrate that the commercial exploitation of introduced species can provide additional or alternative sources of protein and income to promote economic development for indigenous people. This type of enterprise could be expanded to more communities using harvest rates above maximum sustainable yield to provide greater positive social and ecological outcomes for indigenous communities.