Quantifying current and potential contributions of Australian indigenous peoples to threatened species management

Ian Leiper, Kirsten Zander, Catherine Robinson, Josie Carwadine, Bradley J. Moggridge, Stephen Garnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Formal engagement of indigenous peoples in conservation is increasing globally and leads to multiple benefits to communities while contributing to national and international biodiversity goals and obligations. This and ongoing declines in biodiversity have led to calls to increase opportunities for indigenous people to engage in managing their estates. However, there is no overarching understanding of indigenous peoples’ involvement in conservation, which limits the identification of new opportunities. We amalgamated information across governments and large nongovernmental organizations in the megadiverse country of Australia to quantify the involvement of indigenous people in management of threatened species. We identified 153 Australian‐based projects undertaken by different indigenous groups around the nation in 2015 and 2016 that included explicit funds for management of threatened species or threatened ecosystems. Most were in remote parts of western and northern Australia. Almost one‐quarter of all threatened animals and 2% of threatened plants were the subject of some formal conservation action by indigenous people. Occurrence records for 1574 threatened species showed that 823 (89.2%) of 923 species recorded on indigenous peoples’ lands were not listed in management projects. This gap may represent new opportunities for conservation initiatives. Because at least 59.5% of Australia's threatened species occur on indigenous peoples’ lands, efforts to build appropriate and effective indigenous conservation alliances are vital. However, it is also important to recognize that threatened species are part of complex social, ecological, economic and cultural systems, and to achieve successful outcomes requires consideration of indigenous peoples’ priorities, rights, and obligations and relationships with their traditionally owned land and sea.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1038-1047
Number of pages10
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


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