update on gamba grass threat

Recently Pew Charitable Trusts and NT Natural Resource Management ran a forum on gamba grass on which I was a panel member. According to Garry Cook, a CSIRO research scientist at the forum, gamba grass is out of control, meaning that ‘Balanda grass’ as Bininj (Aboriginal) rangers call it, may well realise its potential to colonise the northern third of the Australian continent.

The spread of this 4.5 metre high grass means huge dangerous, fast-moving, annual fires. A report on the forum in an NT newspaper was entitled, “People will die” (Sunday Territorian, Nov, 27, 2017). This year temperatures up to 4.7oC above the long-term maximum, worsened the situation. Firefighters, despite being backed by waterbombing aircraft and all the other equipment one could ask for, simply could not halt some fires in our area this year.

According to firefighters most fires have been lit by arsonists tempted by the sight of great swathes of gamba grass – one such fire came close to taking out our place in September. Others have been lit by pig-hunters in order to scare their prey out into the open.

Bininj rangers, firefighters and landholders are doing our best to conserve our wildlife. Michael and I spend up to six hours a day most days controlling weeds such as gamba. But it seems inevitable that many savannah/eucalypt forest species will be lost, including iconic birds such as Gouldian Finch and Partridge Pigeon. I’m not alone in calling this a national emergency, and asking for a national response.

In the meantime I ask that birders stay well away from areas with a high density of gamba.


Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow Ph.D.
PO Box 71
Darwin River, NT, Australia 0841
043 8650 835

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