Kakadu National Park
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Kakadu National Park locates in the territory of the northern Australia. The park is the world’s largest conservation zone with ecosystem that is typical for local deltas. There are mangrove swamps and eucalyptus thickets as well as rainforests, woodlands and granite rocks. The total area of the Kakadu region is 19,804 km2. Moreover, Kakadu National Park is considered to be the national pride of Australia for its recognized worldwide beauty and wealth of flora and fauna.
Kakadu National Park was named in honor of indigenous tribe called “Kakadu”. Scientists made an assumption that these aboriginal people have been living there for a long period of time, at least 40 000 years. The proofs were found in two famous caves, Ubirr and Namarrgarn. The “X-ray” is a style of unusual rock carvings and paintings that represent human influence and interaction with certain ecosystem. However, it is believed that the park is still a permanent residence for the tribe.
The ecosystem of Kakadu National Park comprises three main components that are under the protection. These are the main river systems (the Wildman River, the East, the West and the South Alligator Rivers) that include the Waterfall Creek Reserve, six major landforms (the stone country, lowlands, floodplains, the outliers and hills, and estuaries) and a distinguished variety of wildlife (nearly 175 reptile species, over 60 species of mammals, over 75 freshwater species, more than 10 000 species of insects, nearly 1 700 plant species, and over 280 bird species). Interestingly, one third of all birds that inhabit Australia live in Kakadu National Park (Thomson et al, 1985).
Kakadu National Park as a unique archaeological, ethnological and natural reserve was established in 1979. Since 1981, it was included to the UNESCO World Heritage List. It means that this object is recognized to have significant cultural and natural values for international community. The half of park’s territory is aboriginal land under the Aboriginal Land Rights. The rest of the area is a public land controlled by the Director of National Parks. Nevertheless, the owners of this ecosystem encountered with several serious problems that have disastrous impacts on functioning of Kakadu National Park.
The first non-aboriginal explorers have appeared in the park since 17th century. The strongest influence was made by Macassans, who came from Indonesia. Every wet season they were sailing to Kakadu National Park and harvested some vegetables, turtle shells and pearls for further trade back at homeland. It is believed that aboriginal people were forced to work for the Indonesians. Above all, that labor work was rather like slavery; certain plant and animal species were critically endangered.
Another example of negative human impact was adoption of Asian buffalo. During a short period of time, an enormous population had devastated the croplands, friable floodplains and wetlands. Since then, buffalos have been mostly eradicated from Kakadu. Besides, crocodile hunting made a huge influence on crocodile population. Consequently, in 1972, it was prohibited to shoot them. Through the past 30 years, crocodiles have been protected. As a result, their population has recovered successfully.
As soon as uranium fields were discovered along the South Alligator River, the mining industry had rapidly developed. Obviously, the nuclear power and the extraction of uranium have serious issues with utilization that affects the whole ecosystem: from aboriginal people to mammals and plants. Furthermore, there are some concerns about safety and management of the mine. Since its foundation, there have been contaminated over 300 000 liters of water that leaks into the ground of National Park every day and poisons its inhabitants (Grey, 1994).
Over the past years, tourism has resolutely improved: thousands of people are visiting Kakadu National Park annually. However, this phenomenon has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it develops the economy of this region. On the other hand, the infrastructure, for instance, roads, accommodation, telecommunications and other basic services, must be provided to meet the tourists’ demands.
All in all, the successful and efficient functioning of Kakadu National Park’s ecosystem depends on coordinated decisions and acts of its owners and specialized international communities. They have already had some good experience of solving common problems, such as crocodile hunting and harmful mining industry. Nowadays, the fundamental task is to guarantee the balance of ecosystem.
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