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Falls thunder down the Arnhem Land escarpment in the wet season in Kakadu National Park.
Nourlangie Rock seen here just before the Wet, is home to a painting of Namarrgon, the Lightning Man.
Kakadu’s fire plan, which involves regular controlled burns to reduce fuel loads when spear grass dries out at the end of the wet season, has both an ecological and a cultural component. “The cultural component involves looking at how traditional burning was carried out, but there’s also the impact on cultural sites to consider. Fire too close to rock-art sites can exfoliate the rock, and then the art’s gone,” says Steve Winderlich, the park’s natural and cultural programs manager
Despite the cultural riches, a century and a half of European settlement has led to the introduction of invasive weeds and animals, and resulted in changed management practices, such as land clearing and destructive fire regimes.
The park is home to about one-third of Australia’s 800-plus bird species and one-quarter of the continent’s land mammals. It is the most species-rich region for freshwater fish in Australia and still contains nearly all the plant and animal species that were present in the area before European settlement.
The sandstone escarpment at Ubirr, in northern Kakadu, towers above the Nadab floodplain – unusually green before the start of the 2010–11 Wet.
Leichhardt found the species in 1845 near Deaf Adder Creek, which runs off the South Alligator River on the Northern Territory’s Arnhem Land plateau. Describing its “bright brick colour dotted with blue”, Leichhardt reported finding the grasshopper here in great numbers.
Kakadu National Park in the Dry. During the Dry (May-October), Kakadu’s billabongs act like sponges, drawing in the park’s diverse wildlife, such as whistling ducks and magpie geese, which flock in their thousands.
Kakadu has been recognised as a living cultural landscape. The earliest known human occupation sites on the continent are situated within the park’s boundaries, and Kakadu’s traditional owners, the Bininj/Mungguy, continue to live on and care for the land as their ancestors did more than 50,000 years ago.
Crocodiles are at home in many of the waterholes in Kakadu National Park.
A darter spreads its wings to dry in Kakadu National Park.
A kingfisher in Kakadu National Park. Every wet season three months worth of heavy, monsoonal rains drain off the Arnhem Land plateau and inundate Kakadu’s floodplains, providing lush habitat and food for birds.
The floodplains, tea-tree scrub and mangrove-fringed mudflats that make up Kakadu’s lowlands cover a vast eroded plain. In the past they underwent periods of saltwater inundation when the sea level rose higher than it is today. Now they comprise Kakadu’s extensive area of RAMSAR-listed wetlands, which officially span the entire park.
Every wet season, three months worth of heavy, monsoonal rains drain off the Arnhem Land plateau and inundate Kakadu’s floodplains. The sandstone escarpment, which is the plateau’s edge and forms much of the eastern border of the 19,804sq.km national park, has stood sentry over Kakadu’s lowlands for about 140 million years.
Kakadu National Park in the Top End of northern Australia is one of the world’s Heritage areas and a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. Water tumbles down Jim Jim Falls on the Arnhem Land escarpment in the wet season.
During the Wet, floodwater gushes over the Arnhem Land escarpment at Jim Jim Falls.
Once lapped by ancient seas, Kakadu now bears witness to the region’s annual transformation from lush, freshwater wetlands, covered in the iridescent blue-green hue of spear grass in the Wet, to massive expanses of arid, savannah woodland in the Dry.
Three of 12 indigenous languages are still spoken in Kakadu and important Dreaming sites, known as Djang in Gun-djeihmi (the language used in central Kakadu), remain off limits to tourists and central to traditional life.
“All the bush food comes out, and that’s why I explain to people that you’ve got to come and visit Kakadu in the Wet as well, because it’s so different fr0m the Dry. You might not be able to get to as many places, but just look at the scenery,” she said, pointing out a camping area, which, although under water, was lush and green and brimming with wildlife, says Jenny Hunter.
During the wet season creeks and rivers flood and areas become isolated – rangers Charlie Whittaker and Fred Hunter (driving) use an airboat to search the floodplains for weeds during the wet season
The floodplains, tea-tree scrub and mangrove-fringed mudflats that make up Kakadu’s lowlands cover a vast eroded plain. In the past they underwent periods of saltwater inundation when the sea level rose higher than it is today.
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