Skip navigation

New feral ungulate damage research underway

12 July, 2023 

On Country visits

We are excited to share an update on our efforts to support our member organisations in managing feral ungulate species. The active management of buffalo, pigs and other feral animals is important to protect cultural sites, promote important bush tucker and restore Country.

ICIN members have formed a Working Group to investigate options to support these efforts through emerging carbon and environmental markets. Recently, our dedicated team, including ICIN's Science Advisor Sherie Bruce and CEO Anna Boustead, joined with the University of Queensland Project Team, led by Professor Catherine Lovelock (pictured below, right), to conduct an initial scoping and gathering of feral ungulate damage surveys on Country.

The team spent 10 days with Traditional Owners and parks rangers in Gagagdju (Kakadu National Park), carrying out transects to measure impact from buffalo and pigs in wetlands; conducting sampling of floodplain wetland soil carbon using a soil corer, sampling of floodplain ants using small pitfall trap jars, surveying vegetation structure and composition, and sampling of greenhouse gas releases from wetlands using a portable greenhouse gas analyzer.

"This is important work to measure the impact of feral ungulates and the damage they do to Country. We will be organising workshops with Indigenous land managers and supporting our Feral Ungulate Working Group, sharing findings and supporting opportunities for further activities," says Sherie (pictured above with Arafura Swamp Rangers). 

Sherie and Anna then travelled to Sherie’s home community, Ramingining, on Yolgnu Country in north Arnhem Land. ICIN Director and Yolgnu Traditional Owner Neville Gulaygulay, of the Arafura Swamp Rangers Aboriginal Corporation hosted the visit and showed areas impacted by buffalo.

"We are at Warrde Swamp land, and we can see damages from buffalo around here, and some out further there, there are big erosions," says Neville (pictured below, left). 

Heavy hooves of buffalo compact the soil and disrupt natural drainage patterns by creating ‘swim channels’ that enhance saltwater intrusion, and their overgrazing leads to soil erosion. Root systems are impacted, causing a loss of native plant species. Buffalo also excrete waste containing excess nutrients that further deteriorate the health of the wetland soil.

New research

This research is funded by the National Environmental Science Program to inform carbon and biodiversity accounting methods that value the management of feral ungulate species, particularly in coastal and freshwater wetland areas. NAILSMA Research Manager Dr Justin Perry and UQ Scientist Dr Valerie Hagger recently presented this research at the National Feral Pig Symposium in Cairns. There is also a new Integrated Farm and Land Management carbon method in development through the Australian Government that may further support this work. 

Thank you to the Arafura Swamp Rangers, particularly Neville Gulaygulay and Dr Otto Campion and the Bininj people of Gagadju for hosting us on your Country. We thank our research partners The National Environmental Science Programme, North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management (NAILSMA), Charles Darwin University and the University of Queensland.