eNewsletter | 7
Greetings from all the staff at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Message from the Board Chairman
It has been a very busy time for us at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Over the past few months we've been conducting controlled burns throughout the park. Controlled burns are vital in protecting the health of desert plants and animals. This year's program is larger than normal because spinifex burnt in a large bushfire back in 2002 is finally ready to carry a burn again. By burning spinifex we're actually improving the habitat of animals like tjakura, great desert skink and mulgara, while protecting our park's assets from the risk of wildfire.
Our rangers have also been conducting research surveys on tjakura over the past few months so stay tuned for the results. This month you might have also noticed us out and about conducting our annual visitor surveys. These help us gather information from visitors about their experience of the park - what they did, where they went and how they rated their experience. We look forward to seeing the results.
We celebrated NAIDOC week on Wednesday 4 July at the Cultural Centre. It was a successful day with many visitors enjoying the variety of cultural presentations including senior Anangu women performing Kuniya (woma python) inma.
I hope you enjoy the latest edition of the e-newsletter.
Chair, Board of Management
Controlled burn program
Our extensive controlled burning program is in full swing. Fire is vital to protect Uluru's plants and animals. We carefully use fire as part of our ongoing management of the park, conducting burns in the cooler months so they can be easily controlled.
The photo shows our staff hard at work below using drip torches to burn tjanpi, (spinifex). You may see smoke in the distance both during the day and at night when you visit the park. These fires are part of the controlled burn program.
We've completed the 2012 tjakura, great desert skink, survey and the population appears to be doing very well. Tjakura is a large burrowing lizard found in sandy habitats. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is one of the current strong holds for the species. Tjakura is a nationally-listed threatened species and has disappeared from many of its former habitats. The main threat to their survival is believed to be foxes and cats.
Our rangers monitor tjakura numbers by checking their burrows. You can tell if a burrow is in use if there is a large external latrine nearby where tjakura deposit their scats. Rangers then estimate how many tjakura and the number of adults and juveniles are in each burrow by looking at the scats in the latrine. Smaller scats indicate the presence of juveniles or sub-adults. Each burrow may contain several tjakura.
Feral animal management program
Our rangers are hard at work managing feral animals, monitoring and trapping foxes and cats within the park. Foxes and cats mostly eat rabbits, but they also place unnecessary pressure on native species like the vulnerable tjakura and mulgara.
We are also monitoring feral cats through remote sensing cameras mounted in various locations within the park and through pad track (footprint) surveys conducted every three months.
Ant survey results
Rangers recorded a total of 155 ant species during a survey carried out in the park. The most dominant species recorded include Iridomyrmex purpureus, also known as meat-eater ants or gravel ants and species of Monomorium, the most common type of ants. These include very small scavengers who will eat anything from leaf litter to meat to large seed harvesters.
Ants play an important role in the semi arid environment as soil engineers and regulators of energy and nutrient flow. Ant productivity and diversity in arid habitats is higher than anywhere else in the world, with arid Australia supporting some of the richest ant communities on earth.
Great news for the mala
The mala population of the park has exceeded our expectations - we now have an estimated population of over 200! The annual mala survey was conducted in September 2011 where we caught 30 males and 40 females. We were delighted to see 23 of the females had young in their pouches! This year we caught and tagged 23 new mala and the rest were animals caught in previous surveys. In 2010 we estimated the population to be around 108 so it is clear the hard work of rangers and traditional owners in caring for the mala is paying off.
Visitors to the park joined Anangu traditional owners to celebrate NAIDOC Week at the Cultural Centre in 4 July 2012. NAIDOC Week recognises the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We had an assortment of cultural activities including dot painting, punu and kiti making, and bush tucker presentations.
Our congratulations go to Uluru traditional owner Hezekiel Jingoonya.
Hezekiel won the NAIDOC Male Elder of the Year Award.
This award is recognition of Hezekiel's tireless and consistent commitment to working in the park. As an Anangu elder, Hezekiel has greatly contributed to the management of the park, strongly supporting education programs and cultural presentations.
Knowledge for Tour Guides Handbook
The Knowledge for Tour Guide Handbook has been under review for the past few months by park staff and Charles Darwin University (CDU). The new edition of the handbook has been finalised and will be made available shortly by CDU. To purchase a hard copy of the handbook email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact CDU on (08) 8959 5252.
The handbook will remain a free download on our website.