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Northern Territory arid zone

What wild things are living in Watarrka National Park and close to Kata Tjuta National Park ?

Dingos, emus, lizards, spinifex pigeons, kangaroos and what else? Watarrka National Park and the area around Kata Tjuta are biodiversity hotspots in the NT’s arid zone, but we don’t know that much about the abundance of animals that live there. Spotting animals at waterholes in Watarrka National Park and the desert near Kata Tjuta will help scientists manage these biodiversity hotspots.

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Animals you’ll see

Spinifex pigeon

Spinifex pigeon 
A red-brown bird with dark barring on the back and wings and a distinctive pointed crest on the top of the head. The eye has a red band across it from the bill towards the back of the head, bordered by black, blue grey, white then blue grey.



Perentie (goanna)
A goanna is a predatory lizard with reptilian skin that varies from brown, greenish-grey to almost black, with a spotted dark and light pattern generally arranged in irregular bands along its body. The tail often ends in a white or yellowish tip.  They can be quite large (up to 2m long).


A frog

Small to medium tree frog, may be dark green, deep olive or brown, grey or fawn.



Top tips from the researchers

  • Counting the bright eyespots will indicate the number of frogs present.
  • The perentie has distinctive markings that can really help in identifying it.

The research

The arid Australian outback is a challenging place to undertake scientific research. Hamish Campbell, Jenny Davis, Jennifer Molyneux from Charles Darwin University are using motion sensitive cameras to undertake wildlife surveys in these remote and hostile locations.

In the desert, waterholes are a natural congregation place for wildlife. By placing camera traps around waterholes, animals were photographed as they came to the waterhole to drink.

Some desert animals are not commonly sighted around waterholes, such as small reptiles. To enable us to photograph these animals near Kata Tjuta, we deployed pots of sardine oil. The scent attracted the animals, and camera traps located nearby photographed the animals as they stopped for a sniff. By identifying the species of animal in these photographs you are assisting us to survey the abundance and diversity of wildlife in the remote and dry regions of Australia.


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