Human Ecology

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 155–164 | Cite as

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

  • Neil CollierEmail author
  • Beau J. Austin
  • Corey J. A. Bradshaw
  • Clive R. McMahon


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.


Feral introduced species Asian swamp buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) Sustainable wildlife harvest Economic development Australia 



Research was funded by Australian Research Council Linkage Project grants LP0669303 and LP0669497. We thank the Gulin Gulin Buffalo Company for their extensive cooperation. CRM and NC conceived the paper; CRM and BJA collected the data; NC, CRM, BJA, and CJAB analyzed the data and built the models. BJA collected and analysed the sustainable livelihoods data. All authors contributed to the writing of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil Collier
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Beau J. Austin
    • 1
  • Corey J. A. Bradshaw
    • 2
    • 3
  • Clive R. McMahon
    • 1
  1. 1.School for Environmental ResearchCharles Darwin UniversityDarwinAustralia
  2. 2.The Environment Institute and School of Earth Environmental SciencesThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.South Australian Research and Development InstituteHenley BeachAustralia
  4. 4.Energy Resources of AustraliaEnergy HouseDarwinAustralia

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