The Kakadu National Park lies in the Northern Territory of Australia. It is a protected area that is located 171 kilometers to the southeast of Darwin.
1. Kakadu National Park – An Introduction
The Kakadu National Park was established on April 5, 1979. It is recorded in the list of the World Heritage Sites. However, the park is gazetted as a locality. According to the 2016’s census, 313 people were recorded as living here. But, it is spread in the area as same as a national park.
The park is located inside the Alligator River region that resides in the Northern Territory of Australia. It occupies 19,804 square kilometers area entirely. This area extends about 200 kilometers from North to South. Further, it is about a hundred kilometers from East to West.
Though it is the 2nd largest national park in Australia but, the traditional Aboriginal owners own most of its area. These aboriginal owners covered this land for about sixty thousand years. But now, they handle the park along with Parks Australia. However, the park is extremely diverse biologically and ecologically.
It supports a large range of flora & fauna habitats. As per EPBC Act, this park is completely protected. Meanwhile, it has brilliant important sites like Ubirr. Also, it is quite rich for having lots of Aboriginal Rock Art. Among the world’s most highly productive Uranium Mines, the Ranger Uranium Mine site was also surrounded by the park.
It includes many invasive species like cats, domestic Asian water buffalo, feral pigs, rabbits, red foxes, etc. All these species, including invasive animals, were brought here by early missionaries and settlers.
The protected status was given to this national park, not entirely in one chance. But, it was a gradual process from the 1970s onwards; the park has given this status little by little.
2. Kakadu National Park- The History
It is said that the Kakadu name of the park might be originated by mispronouncing ‘Gaagudju’. Gaagudju is an Aboriginal language name.
However, in the northwest section of the park, this language is spoken there. Baldwin Spencer had ascribed the name “Kakadu Tribe wrongfully”. The name was given to those people who lived in the Alligator River region.
For 60,000 thousand years, the aboriginal people have taken over the Kakadu region. So, this park is better known for its wide Aboriginal Cultural Sites. It has about five thousand sites in the record that show the Aboriginal culture for the last thousands of years.
Also, it has archaeological sites. These sites show the occupation of Aboriginal people from 20,000 years to 40,000 years.
Many non-indigenous people arrived here thousands of years ago. It includes Portuguese, Malays, and Chinese. However, they all claim that they have been the first explorers of the northern coast of Australia. Meanwhile, the number one written record of surviving first comes from Dutch.
Jan Carstenszoon came to explore the Gulf of Carpentaria to the west in 1623. It is believed to be the Groote Eylandt. Afterward, according to the records, Abel Tasman was the next explorer of this region who came in 1644. Abel Tasman was the first who recorded European contact with the Aboriginal people.
About a hundred years later, in 1802 & 1803, Matthew Flinders came to explore the Gulf of Carpentaria. In 1818 and 1822, Phillip Parker King arrived to explore the same coast. He was an English navigator after looking at numerous crocodiles that he misunderstood for alligators. So, he named three Alligator Rivers.
Moreover, many people have contributed to the great history of the Kakadu National Park. They are explorers, pastoralists, buffalo hunters, and missionaries.
3. Management & Authority
The management and authority of the park is decided by the Australian government. Given below is the detailed information about it.
3.1. Management of Kakadu National Park
The park is a protected area under the EPBC Act. EPBC stands for Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The Boards of Management are directed for the parks that are built on Aboriginal land under the EPBC Act.
However, the Kakadu Board of Management was authorized in 1989. This management has the majority of Aboriginals. It represents the designation of Aboriginal traditional owners in the park.
The policy of management of the park is determined by the board. It is along with the Director of the park. Also, they organize plans for executing the park management. So, the Plan of Management is the main documented policy of the park.
It mainly focuses on long-term goals that will help in the management of the park. Also, it plans the strategic day-to-day or tactical goals.
The people who are employed by the management of Parks Australia carry out the day-to-day management of the park. Parks Australia is a branch of the Australian Government’s Department of Sustainability, Population, Water, Environment, and Communities. About one-third of members of Parks Management are Aboriginal people.
3.2. Authority & Ownership of the Kakadu National Park
The Director of National Parks and the traditional Aboriginal owners handle the park together. While the Commonwealth national parks are managed by the Director via Parks Australia.
About half of the entire land of Kakadu National Park is the Aboriginal Land. It is under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976.
Under the 4 different claims, most of the remaining part of the land was under native title claim. This claim was made by the Aboriginal people.
It was for a few decades until March 2022. A ceremony was held on March 24, 2022, by Ken Wyatt. He is the Minister of Indigenous Affairs. Also, this ceremony was held to mark half of the park’s land to the Aboriginal Traditional Owners.
The area that Aboriginal people own is leased by the traditional owners to the Director of National Parks. It is for managing it as a national park.
4. Flora & Fauna
Flora refers to plant and vegetative species, whereas fauna includes wildlife. The Kakadu National Park is rich in both Flora and Fauna species. You can have a brief explanation about flora and fauna down below.
Flora of the Kakadu National Park is one of the richest floras in Northern Australia. It has over 1700 plant species. This is the result of the park’s great landform, habitat, and geological diversity. However, the Kakadu National Park is among the most weed-free national parks around the world.
The park has different geographical regions with its own specialized flora in every region. However, the environment of the park is directed as “Stone Country”. It features the resurrection grasses that can survive in high heat. Later, the rainfall is also great here, depending on climatic conditions.
Usually, the monsoon forests are created in the cold, moist gorges. Also, there are several endemic plants in Kakadu National Park. So these are supported by the southern basins and hills. The Eucalyptus Koolpinensis is one of the endemic plants that are found in this park. It is found near the Koolpin Gorge, also known as Jarrangbarnmi.
A large section of the Kakadu National Park is occupied by the low land areas. The ground layer of the land is also occupied by many grass species. It includes wildflowers, spear grass, sedges, etc. Terminalia Ferdinandiana is a Kakadu plum that is primarily found in this region.
The floodplains feature a variety of sedges that include spike rush, mangrove (itchy tree), Melaleuca (paper bark trees), and pandanus. In addition, it has a wide range of water lilies’ variety, which the white snowflake, yellow, and blue lilies are often found in these regions.
The Kakadu National Park has a notable variety of its vast wildlife. Firstly, it has over 1,600 species of plants and over 280 species of birds.
Secondly, it has over 10,000 species of insects and over 50 species of freshwater. Moreover, it includes about 117 reptile species and about 60 species of mammals.
The habitat of Kakadu has more than 280 bird species. It contributes to one-third of the bird species in Australia. Several birds can survive in different habitats, while many birds are found exclusively in one environment.
The bird species it has are:
- Vulnerable Red Goshawk
- Rainbow Pitta
- Endangered Gouldian Finch
- Chestnut-backed Button-Quail
- Hooded Parrot
- Patridge Pigeon
- White-browed Robins
The park has over 10,000 insect species. It has a wide range of insects. Probably, it is due to the high temperatures that remain for the entire year. However, the most interesting feature is the termite mounds in the park. It has great and watchable mounds on the southern side of the park.
The most fascinating insect could be Leichhardt’s grasshopper. It is found in black, orange, and blue color. Also, it can be found in the Gregory National Park’s Arnhem Land Plateau.
Given below is the list of several insects that are found here:
- Caddis Flies
- Non-biting Midges
4.2.3. Fishes & Frogs
Inside the park’s waterways is a record of about 53 freshwater fish species. Out of which, eight species of fish have a prohibited distribution. The 32 species are alone found in Magela Creek. Moreover, the park has a wide variety of fish species in Australia.
The 25 species of frogs in the park are incredibly adapted to its climatic conditions. During dry times, many frogs stay dormant. During the beginning of the wet season, the swamps and the billabongs begin to fill with water. At that time, the night of the park is packed with the sounds of the marbled frog and the northern bullfrog.
When the water rises up, the frogs and the tadpoles have plenty of food. It includes dragonfly nymphs, algae, insects, vegetation, and other tadpoles. However, many frogs are also found in the Kakadu’s lowland forests.
The Kakadu National Park has recorded about 117 reptile species. These are cold-blooded animals. So, they need to rely on external factors of heat to balance their body temperature, that is, the sun. But, not to misunderstand that Kakadu’s reptiles can only be active during the day. The reptiles remain active during the night too.
Many reptiles population has been destroyed since the arrival of the cane toad. Many reptiles were usually in the park, but since 2010, they have become rare. It includes death adders, large goannas, eastern brown snakes, etc. The most notable frill-necked lizard has also gone down in numbers.
The two species of crocodiles are found in Kakadu National Park. First is the Crocodylus johnstonii, which is a freshwater crocodile. Second, is C. Porosus, which is a saltwater crocodile.
The park supports about 74 mammal species. This national park has recorded the placental mammals and marsupials mammals.
Common species, like kangaroos and wallabies, with eight other species, live in cooler and dry regions. So they are easy to capture. Meanwhile, most species are adapted to woodlands and open forest areas, making them rare to watch.
Given below is the list of several large mammals that are found in the park:
- Black Wallaroos
- Short-eared rock Wallabies
- Antilopine Kangaroos
- Agile Wallabies
The Kakadu National Park is one of the major tourist attractions in Northern Australia. Its historic Aboriginal cultural sites, diverse & rare wildlife, and amazing dramatic landscape lure tourists here. It has lovely waterfalls and impressive gorges to see. These are Gunlom Falls, Jim Jim Falls, Maguk, and Twin Falls.
Park has several best instances of Australian Aboriginal Rock Art. The most visited locations of the park are Ubirr and Nourlangie. You can also see the park’s diverse wildlife here. It can be seen at Anbangbang Billabong, Yellow Water Billabong, Manukala Wetlands, and Cooinda places.
This park is among the best-known parks in the world for bird watching. Also, you can see thirty percent of the Australian bird species here. The large water crocodiles can be seen in the East Alligator River and Yellow Water River. It is also an interesting activity to do for visitors.
Visitors are warned and requested to be cautious around these crocodiles. However, they will be responsible themselves for any of harm and attack by the crocodiles. The hunting of any creature is strictly prohibited in the Kakadu National Park.
6. Climate of the Park
The climate of the park is usually monsoonal. However, the climate is classified mainly into two seasons. First, the dry season, and second, the wet season. The dry season lasts from April or May to September. Next, the wet season lasts from January to March and April.
The wet season refers to the rainy season and warm temperatures with humidity in the climate. Sometimes, cyclones can cause heavy rains. Usually, the rainfall makes the environment cool here.
Most non-aboriginal people classify the seasons in only two: rainy and dry. However, the Mungguy and Bininj people classified it into six different seasons.
Following is the list of these six seasons:
- Kurrung – It lasts from the middle of August to the middle of October (dry and hot season).
- Yekke – It lasts from May to the middle of June (cold with less humidity).
- Kunumeleng – It lasts from the middle of October to the end of December (pre-monsoon storm season).
- Wurrkeng – It lasts from the middle of June to the middle of August (cold season with lower humidity).
- Bangkerreng – It occurs in the month of April (down storm season).
- Kudjewk lasts from January to March (monsoonal season and thunderstorms).
The Kakadu National Park is a major tourist place to visit in Australia. However, it has its own unique and impressive attractions to watch.
The Aboriginal sites remind you of the history of Australia and give you ancient vibes of thousands of years ago. It has a rich variety of flora and fauna both.
This national park is packed with a wide range of fauna, including mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes, etc. Also, the flora here has some of the best native plant species that are rarely seen. As for the park’s management, it is jointly operated by Parks Australia and Aboriginal Traditional Owners.
Tourists from around the world visit this place and have a great experience exploring this park. The park is also better known for building on Aboriginal land that is thousands of years old. Further, the park is an entirely protected region.
The Australian government preserves the park’s historical dignity and the rare species here.
You can also enjoy a tour of the park with a tour guide. A wide range of campsites is available for camping for visitors. The guide will show everything around the park and take you to the best locations.