15 Nov 2023

IN PHOTOS: FROM THE DESERT TO THE TROPICS: RANGERS SHARING KNOWLEDGE ON BLACK-FOOTED ROCK-WALLABY CONSERVATION

Words by Leigh-Ann Woolley, WA Species Conservation Manager

Indigenous rangers play a critical role in the preservation and management of Australia’s unique and diverse ecosystems. The Warru Rangers from APY Lands in South Australia recently visited the Nyikina Mangala Rangers in the Kimberley region of Western Australia to exchange knowledge and experience on black-footed rock-wallaby conservation and management. This exchange trip was an opportunity for the two ranger groups to learn from each other, share their cultures, and collaborate on conservation initiatives.

(Pictured left to right): Raymond Charles (Nyikina Mangala Rangers) and Warru rangers Tracey Miller, Zachariah Westlake, Spyron Bush,Sherada Stanley and Ronnie Wells.
(Pictured left to right): Raymond Charles (Nyikina Mangala Rangers) and Warru rangers Tracey Miller, Zachariah Westlake, Spyron Bush,Sherada Stanley and Ronnie Wells. © Warru Rangers

The black-footed rock-wallaby is a unique and culturally iconic species that is native to the rocky outcrops of central and western Australia. In the APY Lands it is called warru and in the Kimberley it is called wiliji. This species is listed as endangered, and the rangers are working hard to protect and conserve it.

A wiliji cradled in a capture bag by Nyikina Mangala Rangers before release
A wiliji cradled in a capture bag by Nyikina Mangala Rangers before release © Leigh-Ann Woolley / WWF-Australia

During their exchange trip, the Warru Rangers and the Nyikina Mangala Rangers discussed the challenges they face in protecting the wiliji (black-footed rock-wallaby) and the strategies they have implemented to conserve the species. 

Having a deep connection to their Country and a rich cultural heritage from the deserts of the APY Lands in SA and the tropics of the Kimberley in WA, the exchange trip gave the rangers the opportunity to share their Traditional Knowledge and cultural practices with each other.

Wiliji (black-footed rock-wallaby) scat collection on the Grant Range, West Kimberley camera retrieval.
Wiliji (black-footed rock-wallaby) scat collection on the Grant Range, West Kimberley camera retrieval. © Warru Rangers

They learned about the unique plants and animals in each other's regions and how their traditional knowledge has been used for conservation and management purposes.

Black-palmed monitor on the Grant Range, West Kimberley.
Black-palmed monitor on the Grant Range, West Kimberley. © Warru Rangers

The Warru Rangers and the Nyikina Mangala Rangers are both dedicated to the conservation and management of their Country. They collaborated on several conservation initiatives during their exchange trip, including the development of management plans for the black-footed rock-wallaby. The rangers also discussed opportunities for future collaboration.

William Watson (Head Nyikina Mangala Ranger) and Pius Gregory (WWF-Australia) yarn on the banks of the Martuwarra (Fitzroy River), Camballin, West Kimberley region, WA.
William Watson (Head Nyikina Mangala Ranger) and Pius Gregory (WWF-Australia) yarn on the banks of the Martuwarra (Fitzroy River), Camballin, West Kimberley region, WA. © Nick Weigner / WWF Australia

The Nyikina Mangala Rangers have just returned from a reciprocal visit to Warru Rangers to learn first-hand from the Warru Rangers’ award-winning rock-wallaby program.

Warru Ranger Zachariah Westlake during wiliji camera retrieval on the Grant Range, Jarlmadangah Burru, West Kimberley region, WA.
Warru Ranger Zachariah Westlake during wiliji camera retrieval on the Grant Range, Jarlmadangah Burru, West Kimberley region, WA. © Warru Rangers

The ranger exchange trip between the Warru Rangers and the Nyikina Mangala Rangers was a great success.

Nyikina Mangala Ranger Raymond Charles casting net into the Martuwarra (Fitzroy River), Camballin, West Kimberley region, WA.
Nyikina Mangala Ranger Raymond Charles casting net into the Martuwarra (Fitzroy River) © Nick Weigner / WWF Australia

The two groups were able to learn from each other, share their cultures and knowledge, and collaborate on important conservation initiatives.

Warru ranger Gwenda Watson and Nyikina Mangala Ranger Raymond Charles  with barramundi caught in the Martuwarra (Fitzroy river),  Camballin, West Kimberley region, WA.
Warru ranger Gwenda Watson and Nyikina Mangala Ranger Raymond Charles with barramundi caught in the Martuwarra (Fitzroy river), Camballin, West Kimberley region, WA. © Nick Weigner / WWF Australia

The exchange trip highlighted the important role that Indigenous rangers play in the preservation and management of Australia’s unique and diverse ecosystems.

Paperbark flycatcher, Camballin, West Kimberley region, WA.
Paperbark flycatcher, Camballin, West Kimberley region, WA. © Nick Weigner / WWF Australia

This exchange is a positive step towards building stronger relationships and more effective conservation efforts led by Indigenous ranger teams.

Want to know more about First Peoples amazing conservation efforts? Visit the Caring on Country Hub.

This work was made possible with Lotterywest grant support.