Area: 343,000 hectares (Uunguu Indigenous Protected Area stage 1)
Location: 600km north-east of Derby
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On the far north-west coast of the Kimberley are the land and waters of the Wunambal Gaambera people. This beautiful and remote spot covers an incredible 2.5 million hectares of white sandy beaches, rocky escarpments and rugged gorges.
Uungu Rangers map infrastructure in Wunambal Gaambera country. Photo by Annette Ruzicka
Remarkably, it remains largely untouched by roads and development. Dugongs and Turtles swim the warm waters off the coast, while Humpback Whales nurse their calves around the offshore islands.
The wetlands, woodlands and savannahs of Wunambal Gaambera country provide vital habitat for vulnerable birds, animals and aquatic creatures such as the Sawfish (yarnda), Longneck Turtle (wulumara), Black Grass Wren, Scaly Tail Possum (yilangal) and Monjon – the world's smallest rock wallaby.
The Wunambal Gaambera traditional landowners have lived and hunted here for thousands of years and call it Uunguu – their living home. Everything in Uunguu (all the plants, animals and culture) is precious and must be looked after properly under traditional Wanjina and Wunggurr Law.
Indigenous Protected Area Declared
Boabab trees. Photo by Peter Morris
In May 2011, after some 20 years of struggle, the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation finally secured native title over their country during a ceremony at Mungulalu (the Truscott airfield, in the Anjo Peninsula).
At the same time they declared the first stage of the Uunguu Indigenous Protected Area, protecting 343,700 hectares, and entered into a 10-year partnership agreement with us. This was the first long-term agreement in Australia between traditional landowners and a non-government conservation organisation.
It was the culmination of many years' work by the Wunambal Gaambera people, and 5 years of collaboration with Bush Heritage Australia. Over this time traditional knowledge about the ecology of the land and western science was combined and together our actions help keep the natural habitat and cultural heritage of this very special region healthy for generations to come.
What we're helping protect
Over 1,600 plant species occur in this region of the Kimberley and over 100 of these are not found anywhere else in Australia. Our actions help to protect:
Monjon. Photo by Jiri Lochman / Lochman Transparencies.
- Wijingarri / Northern Quoll (endangered)
- Balguja / Dugong (high cultural value)
- Flatback Turtle (endangered, high cultural value)
- Black Grass Wren
- Yilangal / Scaly Tail Possum
- Monjon – the world's smallest wallaby
- Golden-backed Tree Rat
- Rough-scaled Python
Gun.gurru Photo Tom Vigilante
- Guru (cypress pine)
- Dangana / Livistona Palm, (endemic)
- Gun.gurru / Cycad (endemic)
- Gulay / Green Plum
- Barrurru / Stringybark
Gulay (green plum) flower. Photo Tom Vigilante
- Darrngala / mangroves
- Wulo / rainforest
- Cyprus pine grove
- Paperbark swamp
- Livistona palm woodland
What we've helped achieve
Photo by Peter Morris
As part of the Healthy Country Plan, the Wunambal Gaambera traditional landowners and Bush Heritage have:
- appointed a Healthy Country Manager to work on the ground with traditional landowners and rangers.
- expanded traditional burning practices to prevent wildfires and help bush foods and medicinal plants like gulay (Green Plum) to grow.
- built fences to stop feral animals digging up the ground and spreading disease that will kill the area's flora and fauna or damage rock art sites.
- controlled weeds such as Grader Grass, which help spread wildfires and compete with native grasses.
- recorded cultural sites and monitored populations of native animals and plants.
- created and began implementing plans to manage visitors to the area and to limit the impact of tourism on the land and its flora and fauna.
How the Healthy Country Plan was developed
The Healthy Country Plan was developed through a series of workshops and fieldtrips facilitated by Bush Heritage and the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation. Together, participants mapped out a vision for their Uunguu that would help identify priorities to guide local rangers in their daily management of the land. These include:
- managing fire
- controlling weeds and feral animals
- managing visitors
- conserving cultural heritage
- monitoring the health of plants and animals.
In this stunning and remarkably healthy landscape there have been no mammal extinctions. Our actions together will help ensure this remarkable legacy continues.
A 'cool' burn on Wunambal Gaambera country.Photo by Peter Morris
What we're doing to prevent wildfires
Every June the Healthy Country Team set off on the ‘right-way fire' walk. This is a traditional method of lighting fires by hand to prevent wildfires and protect vulnerable native flora and fauna.
For five long days, the team live off the land, catching and eating bush tucker foods like yams, freshwater crocodile and bream.
As they walk, they light fires with matches and ‘fire brands' – a traditional tool made of gathered grass that's dragged behind until it burns up. They also record important animals, plants and birds on handheld computers.
The rangers record their route, any cultural sites they find and also any feral animals or cattle. This helps them to think about where they might build fences to protect native wildlife and valuable rock paintings.
The walk is a chance for the young rangers to become intimately acquainted with their traditional lands, and to learn first-hand about the places their ancestors knew so well, so they can conserve it into the future.