Environmental Management

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 445-458

First online:

Cross-Cultural Management of Pest Animal Damage: A Case Study of Feral Buffalo Control in Australia’s Kakadu National Park

  • Cathy J. RobinsonAffiliated withSchool of Physical, Environmental, and Mathematical Sciences, Australian Defence Force Academy, The University of New South Wales, Canberra, ACT
  • , Peter WhiteheadAffiliated withKey Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management, Northern Territory University, Darwin, NT

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Government agencies responsible for pest animal management often assume that their views and assumptions about the benefits of control are widely shared, especially if these pests are exotics. This was certainly the case when tens of thousands of feral Asian water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) were to be culled in Australia’s Kakadu National Park as part of a national Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign (BTEC). Implementation of the campaign sparked considerable dispute between officials and aboriginal and non-aboriginal interests about the risks posed by buffalo relative to their value as a potential resource. Drawing upon a variety of written and oral sources relating to the era of buffalo control in Kakadu, this paper critically analyzes the way in which detriment caused by buffalo was appraised and managed under the BTEC program. In particular, the paper focuses the ways in which the BTEC program affected aboriginal people in Kakadu, who view buffalo as a source of customary and economic benefit as well as a source of change on their lands. The paper then considers what lessons can be learned from the BTEC for the development of sensible feral management objectives and strategies. It is argued that effective management of feral animals such as buffalo will require environmental managers to engage with local people and involve them in the definition and management of pest animal damage and methods of control.


Feral animal control Community participation Aboriginal rights Kakadu National Park BTEC