Human Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 379-406

First online:

Indigenous Knowledge of Rock Kangaroo Ecology in Western Arnhem Land, Australia

  • Wendy R. TelferAffiliated withSchool for Environmental Research, Charles Darwin University Email author 
  • , Murray J. GardeAffiliated withConsultant anthropologist/linguist

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Indigenous peoples of western Arnhem Land, central northern Australia, have detailed knowledge of the rock kangaroos of the region, species that are little known to science. Information about the ecology of the species is required for their conservation and management. Ethnoecological studies can assist senior indigenous people with transfer of knowledge and can give respect and meaningful employment to those involved. We used semidirected interviews in the regional vernacular, Bininj Kunwok, to record indigenous knowledge of the ecology of the four rock kangaroo species (Petrogale brachyotis, P. concinna, Macropus bernardus and M. robustus). Discussions focussed on habitat preferences, diet, activity patterns, reproduction, predation, and hunting practices. The ethnoecological knowledge of the rock kangaroo species was extensive, and both complemented and extended that reported in the scientific literature. In contrast to scientific understanding of taxonomy and ecology, consultants recognized the rock kangaroos as a natural group. They also described subtle differences in the species’ comparative ecology. The methodology used proved highly successful and we recommend recording indigenous knowledge of the ecology of fauna species in the local vernacular wherever possible. This study is one of the most comprehensive ethnozoological studies of a group of species undertaken in Australia.


Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) ethnozoology rock-wallaby Macropus Petrogale Australia