Environmental Management

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 445–458 | Cite as

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

  • Cathy J. Robinson
  • Peter Whitehead


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 


  1. 1.
    Altman, J. C. 1982Hunting buffalo in north-central Arnhem Land: A case of rapid adaptation among aborigines.Oceania52274285Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    ANPWS (Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service). 1980a. Representations received in connexion with the plan of management for Kakadu National Park. Australian Government Printing Service, Canberra.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    ANPWS (Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service). 1980b. Kakadu National Park plan of management. Australian Government Printing Service, Canberra, 410 pp.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    ANPWS (Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service). 1986. Kakadu National Park plan of management. Australian Government Printing Service, Canberra, 186 pp.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Baker, R., Davies, J., Young, E. 2001Working on country: Contemporary indigenous management of Australia’s lands and coastal regionsOxford University PressMelbourne351Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bayliss, P. 1986. Operation Howship: A simulated exotic disease control exercise, using buffalo and pigs, in the Arnhem Land escarpment. Unpublished report to the Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory, G. Webb Pty Ltd, Darwin, 28 pp. Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bayliss, P., Yeomans, K. M. 1989aDistribution and abundance of feral livestock in the “Top End” of the Northern Territory (1985–86), and their relation to population control.Australian Wildlife Research16651676Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Bayliss, P., and K. M. Yeomans 1989b. Aerial survey of buffalo, cattle and Bali cattle in the Top End of the Northern Territory and adjacent areas. Unpublished report to the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, BTEC Administration, Darwin, 49 pp.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Boulton, W. J., Freeland, W. J. 1991Models for the control of feral water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) using constant levels of offtake and effort.Wildlife Research186373Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Bowman, M. J. S., Robinson, C. J. 2002The getting of the Nganabbarru: Observations and reflections on aboriginal buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) hunting in Central Arnhem Land, Northern Australia.Australian Geographer33191206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Braithwaite, R. W., Dudzinski, M. L., Ridpath, M. G., Parker, B. S. 1984The impact of water buffalo on the monsoon forest ecosystem in Kakadu National Park.Australian Journal of Ecology9309322Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Caughley, G. 1989New Zealand plant-herbivore systems: Past and present.New Zealand Journal of Ecology12310Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Choquenot, D., Parkes, J. 2001Setting thresholds for pest control: How does pest density affect resource viability?Biological Conservation992946CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Commonwealth of Australia 1991. Culling of large feral animals in the Northern Territory. Report by the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare. Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 94 pp.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    DPIF (Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries) 1989. Strategic plan for BTEC in the Northern Territory—keeping the line moving. Production assisted by Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association, Buffalo Industry Council, Northern Land Council. Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, Darwin, 39 pp.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    DPIF (Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries) 1990. Strategic plan for BTEC in the Northern Territory, 1990–1992. Production assisted by Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association, Buffalo Industry Council, Northern Land Council. Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, Darwin, 55 pp.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    DPP (Department of Primary Production) 1982. Plan for the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis from cattle and buffalo. Department of Primary Production, Darwin, 37 pp.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Fogarty, P. 1982. A preliminary survey of environmental damage associated with activity of feral buffalo. Feral Animals Committee, Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory, Darwin, 88 pp.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Freeland, W. J., Boulton, W. J. 1990Feral water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) in the major floodplains of the “Top End,” Northern Territory, Australia: Population growth and the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign.Australian Wildlife Research17411420Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Hone, J. 1994Analysis of vertebrate pest controlCambridge University PressCambridge258Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kakadu National Park Board of Management. 1999. Kakadu National Park plan of management: consisting of description of the park, plan of management. Kakadu National Park and Parks Australia, Jabiru, 226 pp.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Kinnear, J. E., Onus, M., Bromilow, R. N. 1988Fox control and rock-wallaby population dynamics.Australian Wildlife Research15435450Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Kogan, M. 1998Integrated pest management: historical perspectives and contemporary developments.Annual Review of Entomology43243270CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Lawrence, D. R. 2000Kakadu: The making of a national parkMelbourne University PressMelbourne384Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Lehane, R. 1996Beating the odds in a big country. The eradication of bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis in AustraliaCSIRO PublishingCollingwood264Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Lemcke, B. G. 1981. Buffalo industry survey. 1980/81. Technical bulletin no. 56. Department of Primary Production, Division of Agriculture & Stock, Darwin, 37 pp.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Letts, G. A. 1964Feral animals in the Northern Territory.Australian Veterinary Journal408488Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Letts, G. A. 1979. Feral animals in the Northern Territory: Report of the board of inquiry. Department of Primary Production, Darwin, 234 pp.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Mulrennan, M. E., Woodroffe, C. D. 1998Saltwater intrusion into the coastal plains of the Lower Mary River, Northern Territory, Australia.Journal of Environmental Management54169188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Nepal, S. K. 2000Involving indigenous people in protected area management. Comparative perspectives from Nepal, Thailand, and China.Environmental Management30748763CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Newton, G. D., and B. G. Lemcke. 1988. Domesticated buffalo industry survey 1988, technical report no. 145. Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, Darwin, 38 pp. Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Nugent, G., Fraser, K. W. 1993Pests or valued resources. Conflicts in management of deer.New Zealand Journal of Zoology20361366Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Olsen, P. 1998. Australia’s pest animals: New solutions to old problems. Bureau of Resource Sciences, Kangaroo Press, Canberra, 160 pp.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Ridpath, M. G., Waithman, J. 1988Controlling feral Asian water buffalo in Australia.Wildlife Society Bulletin16385390Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Robinson, C. J., and N. Munungguritj. 2001. Sustainable balance: A Yolngu framework for cross-cultural collaborative management. Pages 92–107 in R. Baker, J. Davies, and E. Young (eds.), Working on country: Indigenous environmental management in Australia. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Rose, B. 1995. Land management issues: Attitudes and perceptions amongst aboriginal people of central Australia. Central Land Council, Alice Springs, 171 pp.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Skeat, A. 1990. Feral buffalo in Kakadu National Park: Survey methods, population dynamics and control. Masters thesis. University of Canberra, Canberra.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Skeat, A. J., T. J. East, and L. K. Corbett. 1996. Impact of feral water buffalo. Pages 155–177 in C. M. Finlayson, and I. Von Oertzen (eds.), Landscape and vegetation ecology of the Kakadu Region, Northern Australia. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Stoneham, G., and J. Johnston. 1987. The Australian brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign: An economic evaluation of options for finalising the campaign in northern Australia. Occasional paper Bureau of Agricultural Economics no. 97. Australian Government Printing Service, Canberra, 112 pp.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Tisdell, C. A. 1982Wild pigs: Environmental pest or economic resource?Pergamon PressSydney445Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Whitehead, P., McGuffog, T. 1997

    Fire and vegetation pattern in a tropical floodplain grassland: A description from the Mary River and its implications for wetland management.

    McKaige, B. J.Williams, R. J.Waggitt, W. M. eds. Bushfire ‘97: Proceedings Australian bushfire conference, Plaza Hotel, Darwin, Northern Territory, AustraliaCSIRO Tropical Ecosystems Research CentreWinnellie308 pp
    Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Woenne-Greene, S., Johnston, R., Sultan, R., Wallis, A. 1994Competing interests: Aboriginal participation in National Parks and Conservation Reserves in Australia: A reviewAustralian Conservation FoundationMelbourne408Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Wondolleck, J., Yaffe, S. 2000Making collaboration work: Lessons from innovation in natural resource managementIsland PressWashington, DCGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Zivin, J., Hueth, B. M., Zilberman, D. 2000Managing a multiple-use resource: The case of the feral pig management in California rangeland.Journal of Environmental Economics and Management39189204CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cathy J. Robinson
    • 1
  • Peter Whitehead
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Physical, Environmental, and Mathematical SciencesAustralian Defence Force Academy, The University of New South Wales, Canberra, ACT Australia, 2600
  2. 2.Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife ManagementNorthern Territory University, Darwin, NTAustralia, 0909

Personalised recommendations