Monitoring terrestrial animals in Kakadu

The monitoring needs and priorities of protected areas evolve over time. For example, emerging technologies such as camera traps, song meters, and eDNA are now enabling scientists and managers to tackle management issues with new approaches. In the Northern Territory, a new monitoring framework is being tested in Kakadu, an integral site due to its large size and biodiversity significance. The framework aims to:

  • detect biologically meaningful levels of change in species and enable inferences about changes in populations and distributions
  • adequately represent natural variability and examine the role of major drivers of change, such as fire – an important management lever
  • maintain adequate continuity with previous monitoring and improve cost-effectiveness
  • report changes in timeframes relevant to managers and decision-makers.

This project is trialling a revised ecological monitoring framework in Kakadu National Park and evaluating its effectiveness for detecting and reporting trends in terrestrial vertebrates and habitat condition. The monitoring undertaken will also inform Park managers on the effectiveness of management actions to address threats to biodiversity including feral cats, introduced species and fire regimes.

The findings from this project will help further optimise the framework so it suits Kakadu and contributes to an integrated monitoring system across major protected areas in the northern NT. The trial builds on previous work across the NT’s protected areas and will help optimise monitoring to maximise cost-effectiveness and to ensure alignment with Park priorities.

The findings will greatly improve our ability to detect and evaluate ecological changes across the region and will lead to better management of national parks and other areas managed for biodiversity.

This project is:

  • providing precise and timely information on biodiversity trends and responses to management and environmental change
  • identifying monitoring gaps for threatened species and other environmental management issues
  • identifying options to meet Kakadu’s management and reporting priorities
  • improving processes to use monitoring information to review and adjust management actions
  • demonstrating best practice in broad-scale ecological long-term monitoring for protected area management in northern Australia

Project activities

  • Consult with Kakadu staff and Traditional Owners to identify monitoring sites across major ecosystems in the Park that build on previous long-term monitoring
  • Consult with Parks Australia to define Kakadu National Park monitoring priorities
  • Analyse potential drivers of change including fire, feral herbivores and feral cats that can be managed within the Park
  • Complete fauna surveys at 50 approved sites, including camera-trap sites
  • Evaluate the utility of the framework for assessing and reporting on threatened species
  • Update long-term trends of mammals and other major vertebrate groups in Kakadu
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the program for monitoring and reporting on key threats and management issues
  • Evaluate technical and logistical options to optimise future general ecological and targeted (e.g. threatened species) monitoring in the Park

Project outputs

  • Reports and scientific publications
  • Summaries and factsheets
  • Recommendations for an optimised framework for monitoring Kakadu’s animals.

This project is being led by Dr Graeme Gillespie from the Northern Territory Government.

Dr Gillespie will be supported by researchers and staff from the Northern Territory Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security as well as Kakadu National Park.

This project is due for completion in June 2021.

e: [email protected]


  • Giant cave gecko, photo Graeme Gillespie
  • Overlooking Kakadu National Park, photo Kym Brennan.
  • Pit trap with small dragon on leaves, photo Northern Territory DENR.
  • Setting a camera trap, photo Northern Territory DENR.
  • Black-footed tree-rat, a threated species in Kakadu National Park, photo Northern Territory DENR.