Headless buffalo carcasses have sparked debate as poaching is proving to be a significant issue for Traditional Owners and station owners across the Northern Territory. National Indigenous Times (NIT) broke the story as footage emerged of 9 headless buffalo and several donkey and horse carcasses.
Mimal Land Management represents landowners in central Arnhem Land; the organisation said there has been a group of four poachers that travel through Mount Catt outstation to hunt.
Currently, visitors are not able to legally travel on Aboriginal land without permission from Traditional Owners and a permit from NLC. The approval of recreational permits has been paused due to COVID-19.
Traditional Custodian Robert Redford came across the hunters near his family’s outstation.
“I told them I’d take them back to show them the right place,” he said.
“I’m worried they might go onto sacred site area … there’s a lot of sacred site here.”
Mount Catt is home to many important ceremonial grounds, burial grounds and sacred sites. Redford was concerned for the
safety of these places when coming across the hunters.
The following day these concerns were confirmed as he found tyre tracks at sacred sites.
“People coming with no permission, you know they make me a little bit upset, like I’m really upset now.”
The incident has been reported to the Aboriginal Protection Authority. The illegal hunters, if found, could face up to a year in prison for unauthorised entry of a sacred site.
Mimal Feral Animal Management Coordinator, Will Green, said the group may face other consequences having killed at least nine buffalo and other animals.
“These guys blatantly ignored that fella [Robert Redford] and they’ve driven straight past him and out onto his Country where they have proceeded to then blast away a lot of our animals in that area,” he said.
“They’ve taken just trophy heads … They have left the rest of the body just out there in the bush to rot away.”
Mimal subcontracts buffalo mustering and game hunting in the area, which provides economic value to the community.
“The poachers potentially have probably a couple of thousand dollars’ worth of animals on board their truck that should have been money coming back to the community,” Green said.
This is not the first case of illegal visitors to the area, according to Mimal Land Management CEO Dominic Nicholls.
“It’s happening all across Arnhem Land and it’s happening more and more often,” he said.
“This is no longer going to be tolerated—unless the laws they’re breaking are enforced people will keep illegally trespassing, hunting, stealing and disrespecting the land.”
The ABC reported “NLC chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said the council would seek to increase penalties for trespass”.
“Enough is enough. This shameless disregard for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal law has got to stop and stop right now,” he said.
“The NLC put everyone on notice earlier this year when we restricted access to remote communities and suspended the issue of recreational permits to enter Aboriginal land during the COVID-19 crisis.”
Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association CEO Ashley Manicaros said the alleged trophy killing re-enforced the need for a dedicated stock squad within NT Police.
“Rangers have managed to identify a potential crime and the challenge will be for police resources to investigate it. But police need to understand what it is they are investigating and the significance of the loss,” Mr Manicaros said.
Mr Manicaros said the situation was no different to a pastoralist losing cattle through theft or random killing.
“Two men have been convicted of breaches to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act this year”.
“A man was convicted and fined $700 in July for running a buffalo safari business without a Section 19 Land Use Agreement on the Manyallaluk Aboriginal Land Trust, north-east of Katherine”.
“A buffalo musterer was convicted also and fined $600 in September for being on Aboriginal-owned land near Ngukurr without a permit”.
These continual poaching incidents are making access in the Northern Territory unreachable for most people. The animals that are being poached are valuable to the Traditional Land Owners and stations they live. These same animals need controlling however whilst poaching is rampant the LAFO’s have little chance to access these animals down the track as an alternate to chopper culls.