Harvesting of Feral Asian Swamp Buffalo in the Top End could help to manage rising numbers of the pest and boost local livelihoods.
Feral buffalo has long been an issue for the region and has contributed to altering the character of floodplains and vegetation across the Northern Territory.
Research into the advantages and disadvantages of harvesting feral buffalo for live exports and controlling feral buffalo for conservation is underway, with Kakadu National Park being used as a case study.
Charles Darwin University PHD student Stewart Pittard said approximately 6,500 feral buffalos currently inhabit Kakadu National Park and threaten the landscape of the region.
“The impacts they have on Kakadu National Park can also be applied to other big wetland systems in the Top End, such as Arnhem land and the more protected areas along the Adelaide River,” Stewart said.
“They degrade the wetland systems by compacting the soil which then causes erosion and also change the vegetative dynamics of the ecosystem.”
Stewart said there was also great potential for a joint approach in managing the feral buffalo population.
“It takes a bit of compromise from both sides but I believe these protected areas such as a Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land could create a unique balance in generating income for local communities, while also protecting the environment from unusually high numbers of buffalo,” Stewart said.
“The advantages of harvesting are that it will generate an income for local communities and get people on the land working and at the same time reduce landscape degradation.
“If actively managed there are also advantages the buffalo can provide for weed control as there are a lot of big wetland weeds that build up and choke our water systems.”
Mr Pittard will be presenting his findings at the 2016 Territory Natural Resource Management Conference, being held at the Darwin Convention Centre from Tuesday 22 to Thursday 24 November.