Traditional fire management underway in the park. Photo: Stanley Breeden
Our rangers use a mix of traditional knowledge and modern science to conserve the plants, animals, culture and landscapes of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Using fire has been a part of land management and Tjukurpa for thousands of years.
For Anangu, traditional burning of the country began with the ancestral beings. Lungkata (the blue-tongued lizard) burned spinifex as he travelled towards Uluru from the north.
Many of our plants rely on fire to regenerate. Burning encourages bush foods to grow and flushes out game animals, ensuring that Anangu have plenty to eat.
Burning also reduces fuel loads, preventing the risk of large wildfires. Before Europeans arrived in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta region, traditional patch burning produced a mosaic-like pattern of burnt and unburnt terrain, making it difficult for small fires to spread and become big ones.
Patch burning stopped when many traditional owners were removed from the region in the 1930s, and we quickly saw the result of having no fire regime in place.
During the 1940s rainfall was good and plants flourished. But in 1950, a fire fed by fuel from 20 years of uninhibited growth burnt about a third of the park’s vegetation. In 1976 two more fires burnt out more than 75% of the park.
Park managers realised that they needed a different approach to fire management – one that relied on techniques that have worked for many thousands of years. The park managers approached traditional owners and together they developed a system of patch burnings for use in the park.
This burning regime continues today with traditional owners guiding rangers to improve the health of the park. Patch burning takes place in winter when temperatures are low and the winds are light.
Mala conservation – caring for culture and country
A long time ago, the Anangu’s ancestors – the Mala people – travelled to Uluru from the north.
Today, we work with Anangu to look after the animal we now call the mala.
Mala (also known as rufous hare-wallabies) once inhabited spinifex grass country throughout Central Australia. Wild mala are now extinct in the area, driven out by European settlement, changing fire regimes and feral predators.
Since 2005, we have been running a mala reintroduction program in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Working with Anangu from Mutitjulu community, we constructed a 170-hectare feral-proof enclosure to house a group of these endangered animals so they can breed and contribute to the long-term survival of the species. Today we have a healthy and robust community of mala in the park.
The mala program is just one example of how Parks Australia works with traditional owners to protect the natural and cultural heritage of Uluru-Kata Tjuta.
Feral animal management
Central Australia’s desert environments are incredibly sensitive, and introduced animals can do a lot of damage.
The main feral animals that cause problems in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park are camels, rabbits, foxes and cats. These species can drain scarce water sources, kill native animals and eat plants that are important for ecosystem health.
There are no fences around the park, so we work with our neighbours across the region to control feral animals.
We also work closely with Anangu, consulting them on management plans and drawing on their knowledge and tracking skills to control introduced species.
Want to know more?
You can find in-depth information about our conservation work and research on the Department of the Environment and Energy website.