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Indigenous eco-cultural knowledge of freshwater turtles in South-East Arnhem Land, Australia
thesisposted on 2022-03-29, 00:11 authored by Rukshana Sultana
Freshwater turtles play a significant role in Indigenous culture as food and totems. Following requests by Indigenous communities of the South East Arnhem Land Indigenous Protected Area (SEAL IPA), this project documented freshwater turtle knowledge of Traditional Knowledge Custodians (TKCs) to gain a better understanding of freshwater turtle species distribution, habitat preferences, potential threats and cultural values. Through participatory mapping workshops and semi-structured interviews, three turtle species were recorded in the IPA: Northern Long-neck Turtle (Chelodina oblonga), Short-neck Turtle (Emydura worrelli) and Stinky Turtle (Chelodina canni). Freshwater turtles are embedded in local Aboriginal culture which is expressed in this region mainly through stories and songlines. TKCs mentioned four main threats to freshwater turtles: climate change, natural predators, feral animals and habitat change. Climate change impact was primarily attributed to lower rainfall. Natural predators were dingo and birds of prey, while feral animal threats were mentioned as buffalo, pig and cattle. The eco-cultural and participatory approaches used in this project greatly improved knowledge of freshwater turtle distribution, cultural association and threats for which there was previously very little documented data in this remote part of northern Australia.