Kakadu’s 20,000 square kilometres encompass a huge range of habitats from sandstone escarpments topped with heathland to savannah woodlands, wetlands and tidal mangroves all changing throughout the seasons. Within these habitats an extraordinary diversity of wildlife thrives, including 2000 different plants, more than 10,000 species of insect, 68 mammals, and 120 different reptiles including thousands of crocodiles (the park’s main watercourse, the South Alligator River, was misnamed after the prolific croc population on its banks). You’ll also find a third of Australia’s bird species within Kakadu, including the elegant jabiru (black-necked stork), the similarly large brolga, with its curious courting dance, and white-breasted sea eagles, as well as galahs and magpie geese by the thousand. Mammals include kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, 26 species of bat, and dingoes.
With so many interdependent ecosystems, maintaining the park’s natural balance is a full-time job. Burning off has long been recognized as a technique of land management by Aborigines who have a safe, effective process that involves lighting small, controllable fires in a patchwork quilt-like pattern to stimulate new plant growth. Today, rangers imitate these age-old practices, burning off the drying speargrass during Yegge, the indigenous “cool weather time” season from May to June. Managing introduced species, from water buffalo to troublesome grass species and cane toads, is also a major priority in order to preserve the park’s environment.