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The Aboriginal Memorial

Introduction | History | Artists & Clans | Arnhem land

 

Arnhem land flora and fauna

waterholes | beaches | forests | jungle | mangroves | plains | flora and fauna

 

 

Plants

 

Giant water lily — dhulumburrk, biyarra
Nymphaea gigantea

This plant can be up to 30 centimetres in diameter. It has giant heart-shaped leaves which spread across the water's surface. The flowers bloom from April to October. The seeds and stems of this plant are an important staple.

 

Yam — yukuwa
Dioscoria transversa
and D. bulbifera

The round yam and the long yam are edible roots, often found growing together in the rainforests. Both plants are vines with large underground tubers which are dug up and eaten by the Arnhem Land people. The round yam grows about 25 centimetres below the ground. Its many fine roots give this yam a hairy appearance. Long yams grow well below the surface, at least 60 centimetres down and are dug out around April. Both yams are important food sources.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fish

 

Mussel — maypal
Family Mytilidae

Mussels are shellfish which attach very firmly to rocks, wharf piles or any other submerged or semi-submerged hard surface. They can be found from the high tide mark down to a depth of a few fathoms. Mussels can move very slowly over the surfaces to which they are attached by building a new attachment thread (byssus) in the direction they are moving, then transferring to that thread. Mussels are considered delicacies in Arnhem Land, as they are in many parts of the world. Because they often grow above the low tide mark, they are easily collected.

 

Barramundi — ratjuk
Lates calcarifer

Barramundi are large fish found in rivers and streams throughout Arnhem Land. They feed on other fish and freshwater invertebrates. After the female lays eggs, the male barramundi carries them in his mouth until they hatch, refraining from feeding during the incubation period.

Barramundi are an important food source for Yolngu people. During March and April, when there has been heavy rain and flooding occurs, barramundi swim over the flood plains and are easy to catch with large, specially designed traps, or by spearing.

 

Eel-tailed catfish — ginginy, wulawarri
Family Plotostidae

With their long whiskers and distinctive tails, the eel-tailed catfish are not likely to be confused with any other fish. There are both marine and freshwater species of eel-tailed catfish living in a variety of habitats. They feed predominantly on molluscs and crustaceans and have poisonous spines in their dorsal and pectoral fins which are capable of inflicting painful wounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birds

 

Magpie goose — gurrumatji
Anseranus semipalmata

Magpie geese congregate in very large flocks on the rush and sedge dominated flood plains, lakes and billabongs of Arnhem Land. Unlike most water birds, when alarmed magpie geese will take flight and shelter in trees. They also often roost in trees overnight. Magpie geese were exterminated from the southern parts of Australia in the early 1900s by shooters, habitat destruction and poisoning by farmers. They are now only found in the tropical north of Australia.

 

 

Little black cormorant — burala, gurrupurru
Phalacrocorax sulcirostris

The little black cormorants can be found in most aquatic habitats in Arnhem Land. Unlike other cormorants they sometimes congregate in large flocks, flying in a 'V' formation. They feed mainly on small fish but also eat small aquatic invertebrates. They have no distinct call but the males do make ticking sounds. The little black cormorant grows up to 65 centimetres from beak to tail.

 

 

Crow — wak
Corvus orru

Crows are very adaptable and are found in most habitats. Adult torresian crows measure approximately 50 centimetres from beak to tail. They are omnivorous (that is, they eat both plant and animals), although the torresian crow eats more grains and vegetable matter than other Australian crows. Their call consists of a series of high-pitched honkings or harsh snarls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mammals

 

 

Rock wallaby — bardipardi Petrogale venustula

The rock wallaby is found in rocky gorges, cliffs and hills in savannah grassland. Like many Arnhem Land animals, rock wallabies are usually active during dusk and into the early evenings and just before and after dawn. Like all kangaroos and wallabies, rock wallabies are grazing animals which feed on any available vegetation.

 

Yam — yukuwa Dioscoria transversa and D. bulbifera

The round yam and the long yam are edible roots, often found growing together in the rainforests. Both plants are vines with large underground tubers which are dug up and eaten by the Arnhem Land people. The round yam grows about 25 centimetres below the ground. Its many fine roots give this yam a hairy appearance. Long yams grow well below the surface, at least 60 centimetres down and are dug out around April. Both yams are important food sources.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tortoises, goannas and geckos

 

Long-necked tortoise — minhala, banda, bandalngar
Chelodina rugosa

The tortoise is predominantly carnivorous, feeding on fish, crustaceans and molluscs. It occasionally eats fruit and algae. The long-necked tortoise lives in slow-flowing or still bodies of water.

The tortoise is considered a delicacy by the Aboriginal people of Arnhem Land. Women collect the tortoises by pulling them out of the mud or catching them while they are swimming.

 

 

Water goanna — djarrka
Varanus mertensi
or V. mitchelli

Water goannas, as their name suggests, spend most of their time in or around water. They are most often seen basking on rocks or logs on the water's edge. When disturbed they will drop into the water and can remain submerged for long periods. They feed on fish, frogs and invertebrates.

 

 

 

 

Gould's goanna — djanda
Varanus gouldii

Gould's goanna is a ground dwelling lizard which grows to over one and a half metres long. It usually lives in burrows but is sometimes found in hollow logs or under ground debris. This goanna is a fast moving predator, feeding on insects, reptiles, birds, mammals and carrion. Large mature goannas can stand on their hind legs, balancing on their tails, to gain a better view of their surroundings.

 

 

 

 

 

Gecko — mangapadjiri, yegali
Family Gekkonidae

Geckos are a diverse group of small nocturnal lizards, and are found in most Arnhem Land environments. They feed on invertebrates and on insects attracted to the lights of human settlements at night. Like snakes, geckos have no eyelids; instead they have a transparent scale covering their eyes which they clean by licking it with their broad, fleshy tongues. All female Australian geckos lay eggs, usually producing two eggs in a clutch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snakes

 

 

King Brown snake — darrpa
Pseudechis australis

Despite their name, King Brown snakes are not closely related to other brown snakes. In fact, they are members of the black snake genus. Growing to over two-and-a-half metres long, King Brown snakes are one of Australia's largest venomous snakes; because of their size and the large volume of venom they are capable of injecting, they are also regarded as one of the most dangerous. These snakes are mainly nocturnal, spending their nights hunting for birds, reptiles and small mammals.

 

 

 

File snake — djaykung, bulukminy
Acrochordus arafurae
or A. granulatus

These non-venomous snakes are entirely aquatic, and are virtually helpless when stranded on land. Of the two file snake breeds in Arnhem Land, the Arafura file snake (Achrochordus arafurae) is the type most commonly hunted and eaten. This snake is largely restricted to freshwater streams and lagoons, although it moves freely through estuarine and sea water. The Arafura file snake is mostly active at night, feeding almost exclusively on fish. The little file snake (Achrochordus granulatus) is a marine and estuarine species. It feeds on small crabs and fish, foraging mostly in the inter-tidal zone.

 

 

 

Black-headed python — mundukul, gunungu
Aspidites melanocephalus

Like all pythons, the black-headed python has no venom but kills its prey by constriction. It is a terrestrial nocturnal snake found in a variety of habitats throughout Arnhem Land. Growing to approximately three metres in length, with shining black head and striped body, it is one of the region's most easily identifiable snakes. Black-headed pythons lay about ten eggs in a clutch. They feed mainly on other reptiles, including venomous snakes, but also eat birds and small mammals.

 

 

 

Rock python — nawaran
Morelia oenpelliensis

Growing to over five metres in length, the rock python is the largest snake found in Arnhem Land — some evidence suggests that it is the largest snake in Australia. It is mainly associated with cave and rock crevices, but has also been found in trees. Rock pythons only inhabit the Arnhem Land escarpment in the Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) region. They feed mainly on birds and mammals, but have reportedly fed on prey as large as the black euro (Macropus bernadus).

 

 

 

 

 

Olive python — wititj
Liasis olivaceus

This non-venomous snake is most commonly found in rocky areas, such as gullies and gorges. The olive python is one of the largest snakes in Arnhem Land, growing to over four metres in length. It is nocturnal, and feeds on any animals small enough for it to subdue by constriction. The female olive python lays eggs, coiling around to incubate them and does not leave them even to feed.

 

 

 

 

Water python — karritjarr, bidimbida, burruttji
Liasis fuscus

These pythons are always associated with permanent water. They are nocturnal, hunting for water birds and their eggs, mammals and reptiles (including small crocodiles). Water pythons, like all pythons, are non-venomous and kill their prey by constriction. They grow up to three metres in length.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mammals

 

 

Rock wallaby — bardipardi Petrogale venustula

The rock wallaby is found in rocky gorges, cliffs and hills in savannah grassland. Like many Arnhem Land animals, rock wallabies are usually active during dusk and into the early evenings and just before and after dawn. Like all kangaroos and wallabies, rock wallabies are grazing animals which feed on any available vegetation.

 

Yam — yukuwa Dioscoria transversa and D. bulbifera

The round yam and the long yam are edible roots, often found growing together in the rainforests. Both plants are vines with large underground tubers which are dug up and eaten by the Arnhem Land people. The round yam grows about 25 centimetres below the ground. Its many fine roots give this yam a hairy appearance. Long yams grow well below the surface, at least 60 centimetres down and are dug out around April. Both yams are important food sources.